Introducing the Bedbug Registry
Let me apologize up front if you're one of those people who are more comfortable with having not known about a potentially uncomfortable (not life-threatening) situation as opposed to knowing about it, having the opportunity to gauge your exposure and deciding whether or not to take caution moving forward.
In other words, if ignorance is your bliss, you may not want to read what follows this sentence.
For those of you who are still with me, let me tell you about the Bedbug Registry - a free Internet database that relies on U.S. and Canadian travelers to report any creepy crawlers they find during their stays.
According to the site (http://www.bugregistry.com/), there have been 20,000 reports covering 12,000 locations made in the U.S. and Canada since the site launched in 2006. Though the site claims most Americans have never come across bedbugs, which are described by the Mayo Clinic as reddish-brown, oval, flat insects about the size of an apple seed.
While signs of bed bug bites are pretty generic compared to bites of other insects (redness, itching), more telling signs include bites that are arranged in a rough line or cluster, and allergic reactions such as severe itching, blisters and hives have been recorded.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk of being bitten by a bedbug increases the more time one spends in places where there's a high turnover of night guests. As one who travels a handful of times each year for business and pleasure, on average, I've yet to encounter any bedbugs. But a quick glance at the registry shows reports of bedbug incidences at two locations in which I've stayed in my home town (Philadelphia).
For those who frequent the Mid Atlantic and New England areas, the registry's interactive map is a sea of red, denoting the most reports of bedbug cases. The registry labels the New York metro area as owning the worst infestation in the U.S. with more than 4,000 reports. San Francisco has about a reported 450 reports that are concentrated in the Tenderloin District and Los Angeles is said to have 403 reports.
In what would probably label me as a "germaphobe" in most people's eyes, I already avoid using remote controls in hotel rooms in light of numerous reports that claim clickers are rampant landing pads for germs because they're handled by many people and never cleaned.
Now, I feel I may need to sleep on the floor, in the bathtub or even attempt to do so standing up whenever traveling and vacationing.
Bed Bug History
According to the Mayo Clinic, bedbugs have existed for thousands of years. The use of DDT after World War II reportedly eliminated them from most developed nations, but that pesticide has since been banned since the early 1970s because it's been deemed toxic to the environment, wildlife and human health.
Professional help is often needed in the event bedbugs follow you home.