This week (February 12, 2012) TV and Newspapers have splashed headlines about bed bugs found in Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is not surprising that a hospital would have bed bug issues. After all, a hospital is a combination hotel (place for families to stay and sleep) and medical office. All places where people stay, homes, apartments, college dorms, hotels and even cruise ships have bed bug problems. Bed bugs infest public buildings, libraries and places such as stretch limos that many would never suspect would harbor bed bugs.
Hospitals worry about infectious diseases and some insects are capable of transmitting disease. Bed bugs fortunately, are not very good transmitters of disease. Bed bugs will take a large blood meal and return to a harborage to digest it. Extended periods between blood meals means that pathogens that do not reproduce in the host are unlikely to be transmitted between patients. Bed bug behavior differs from more effective vectors that bite multiple people (or animals) in a short period of time.
Do bed bugs signify a “bad” hospital? Not at all. Bed bugs are moved about in luggage and personal items. One person with infested items can infest a building. Bed bugs can even be moved in library books. Bed bugs are not associated with lack of cleanliness. Even sterile rooms can support bed bugs if there are people to bite. More important is how serious the hospital addresses the problem and how well they communicate to the public. Any place someone stays overnight can be a place to be subject to bed bug feeding and a place to inadvertently pick up a bed bug infestation and carry it home. From 5 star hotels to hospitals, the current bed bug “epidemic” requires vigilance.