Vigilance may keep bedbugs from travelers

Q&a

December 24, 2006|By San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News

I've heard that bedbugs are being reintroduced in the United States by travelers returning from other countries. When I travel, I always drop a few mothballs in my luggage and use them in closets or drawers. Does this help?

Probably not, said Greg Baumann, senior scientist at the National Pest Management Association, a trade group. Although he said he couldn't rule out mothballs' effectiveness, he's not aware of any studies that have been done.

Bedbugs are making a comeback internationally and domestically. Baumann's association said that from 2000 to this year, pest control companies have seen a 71 percent increase in the number of calls about the insects. It's not just hostels or inexpensive hotels that are seeing the problem; bedbugs feast on human blood (and cause itching), so even five-star hotels can get hit.

Baumann says you should inspect bedsheets and mattresses upon arrival, looking for smear marks or spots where bugs have already dined. Put your backpack or suitcase on a chair. Bring a flashlight to inspect wallpaper, cracks, upholstery and furniture crevices.

If you suspect that bedbugs are present, notify management and change rooms immediately. Bedbugs in one room doesn't mean they're in all rooms.

When you return home, wash your clothes in hot water and vacuum your suitcase (including seams) and the insides of your shoes. If you see bugs, call an exterminator.

For more information, go to pest world.org and click on "For consumers."

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