Bedbugs -- once nearly eradicated in the United States -- are back. That's bad news for everybody planning to head to a hotel during a vacation this summer -- because the risks of getting bitten and carrying a fully-fledged infestation back home with you are much higher than they used to be.
What should you know about bedbugs?
They're small, hard to spot and they can hide just about anywhere. Because they can flatten themselves down thinner than a credit card, they can get into very tiny places -- and that includes purses and suitcases. A hotel can be quite clean and still end up with a bedbug infestation -- it only takes one guest with a suitcase full of bedbugs from home to start.
When bedbugs bite, their saliva mixes with their victims' blood. It can cause painful rashes and allergic reactions for many -- not to mention psychological consequences from scarring and the trauma of being bitten.
Can you spot them in a room?
Before you unpack the car, inspect the room you're supposed to be staying in for signs of a recent infestation of bedbugs. The bugs prefer to locate near the bed -- where their human prey sleeps at night -- so look on the sheets and the mattress for little brown or rust-colored stains. Little black dots about the size of a pen mark is likely bedbug droppings. The bugs themselves are brown or reddish in color and each about the size of an apple seed. The eggs are tinier and yellow-white in color.
If you see any of these signs, inform the manager, ask for a refund and stay somewhere else.
Can you receive compensation for bedbug injuries?
If you can prove that the hotel had reasonable notice of the problem before you got there -- yes. The odds are good the hotel won't admit to knowing about the problem voluntarily unless you file a lawsuit. Then, it may come out on recovery. However, you should always document the infestation and your injuries.
If there's one or two bedbugs, there's a possibility that the hotel didn't know the bugs were there. A large infestation, however, is a sign that they've been in place for a while -- and could indicate negligence on the hotel's part.
Source: USA Today, "Hotel Obligations for Bed Bugs," Christopher Michael, Leaf Group, May 22, 2018