New York Launches War Against Bed Bugs

Robert Siegel and Michele Norris talk about the seemingly global infestation of bed bugs, and note that Wednesday, New York City officials announced a coordinated plan to eradicate the rapidly multiplying pests.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Well, if that wasn't disgusting enough, after almost a year of careful research and study, today an advisory board in New York City issued a comprehensive report on bed bugs.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Yuck, just the words are enough to get most people scratching.

(Soundbite of scratching)

NORRIS: The tiny, apple-seed-sized insects hide in mattresses and come out at night to bite. Bed bugs were virtually eliminated in the years after World War II. Now they're back - back like crazy. They've been spreading at alarming rates not just in New York City, but across the country.

SIEGEL: San Antonio, Baltimore, Phoenix, Des Moines are just some of the cities that have recently reported infestations. In fact, bed bugs have become so ubiquitous, they even have their own show.

(Soundbite of television program, "Bed Bug Central TV")

Mr. JEFF WHITE (Television Host): Welcome, everybody, to our most recent episode of "Bed Bug Central TV." I'm your host, Jeff White. And what we're going to talk about today is: What do I do if I think I have bed bugs?

SIEGEL: Pest-control companies in some areas say they are overwhelmed with requests for service calls. The outbreaks have caught the attention of public health officials and of politicians, especially in New York City - which has become, it seems, the capital of bed bugs.

NORRIS: There have been outbreaks in luxury hotels, fancy retail outlets, upscale apartment buildings and even theaters. So today, the city announced a battle plan. The headline:

Council Member CHRISTINE QUINN (Democrat, New York City): New York City Council says to bed bugs: Drop dead.

NORRIS: That's New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Now, as cities go, New York is no stranger to pests. Various rodents inhabit the subways, and the city has bred a champion population of cockroaches. But Christine Quinn notes bed bugs are different.

Council Member QUINN: They're in your homes. Most of the rat and mice problems we have are not in people's homes - though some are, but most are not.

NORRIS: New Yorkers, says Quinn, know what to do about rats or cockroaches: Call your super. And most landlords know how to deal with those types of vermin. But bed bugs?

Council Member QUINN: Since we haven't had bed bugs in decades in New York City, it's a new pest on the scene.

SIEGEL: And to combat this new pest on the scene, the board recommends a heavy dose of public education, including a bed bug website.

Council Member QUINN: Where they will get all of their bed bug questions answered.

SIEGEL: And where they'll find some good news: Health officials say the bed bugs can make you itchy and possibly embarrassed, but unlike rats or mosquitoes, they are not known to spread blood-borne diseases.

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