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Readers share the bed bug nightmares

A sampling of e-mails after the report on bed bugs.

After watching your story and realizing I had a problem, I lifted my mattress and found them! I had thought I had a rash that no one could explain over the last two months, which no one could understand. I am in the process of removing all my bedding and exterminating. I am afraid they will go beyond the bed —Michelle, Miami, Fla.

Thank you for airing a segment on bedbugs on March19th. I was also exposed to this troubling nuisance, but not by visiting a hotel. I was sold an old mattress that was supposed to be new, and became ill shortly after that. I also wound up in the ER.  I am in the process of recovery the medical expenses from the furniture store. Unfortunately a lawyer has not taken my case yet.  I am very angry that there are many people going through this experience. —Romona J.

Hi. I watched Dateline NBC last night March 19, 2006 re: bed bugs. I have been a victim of the same infestation. I went to the ER with welts all over my body and I also have pictures of these welts and dead bugs which I had taken to Kennedy Health in Cherry Hill to find out what species they were and found out they were bed bugs. I have in possession the bugs that actually chewed on me in a small hospital container as proof just in case. The Health Inspector came but I don’t know what the hotel did to solve the problem. Nobody would believe me, the hotel manager and his staff just laughed me off, they said it was just me and nobody else. I’d like to give them a piece of my mind. Thank you for airing this tragedy last night, it proved I wasn’t making up the whole story and I hope it opened the management’s eyes to this problem. —Tina M.

I live in Brooklyn, New York and around last August I found myself with a strange but horrible looking “allergy,” or “rash” nearly covering my arms and legs for about a month that I was very desperately trying to determine the origin of. Well, you know what it was. I’m from the West coast and in my lifetime (experience) I didn’t even know bedbugs were actual, real things (just something from that “nighty nite..” ditty if anything). They are unbelievable in the absolutely worst senses of that word. Former generations should/would have thanked God for DDT, meaning, at least that stuff worked like a blanket killer for these things. Evolution has honed these little evils into the sharpest little voracious, patient, “invisible”, prolific, trenchant, perfectly adapted to evade and yet torture man little survivalists ever. To cut to the chase, I did a lot of research by myself on the Internet—about them, about peoples’ absolutely shell shocked, drop jawed nightmare experiences with them, about treatments, chemicals, PMPs, anything and everything I could. And not because it was fun, but because I had to. My landlord agreed to get a guy to come treat the place but little did I know he would only come twice and wanted $300+ for any further visits. I knew from what I had read and my growing experience with them that that wasn’t ever going to knock them down let alone out for good. Sure enough within a week and a half I saw one coming down the door frame after the first treatment. They actually were introduced by me because I picked up a (very clean looking, I thought, and smelling, nearly new mattress) left outside by some neighbors. You will never know how horrific I have felt about that moment and that decision. By the time I identified the problem, they had spread to floorboards, door frames as well as the mattress and pillowcase… I’m really kind of just “waiting” for summer because I know “the truth” about this problem will come out then. —Elias, Brooklyn, N.Y.

My wife and I watched your bed bug information show with great interest.  We are currently using Orkin to try and get rid of them in our home.  To make a long story short, we first noticed the bed bugs late last summer.  I had let cliff swallows nest on the south side of our home (backyard side) that spring thinking that they would help the mosquito problem that exists in this part of the country.  What a mistake!!!  We later found out that swallows, especially cliff swallows are host to bed bugs.  I’m not sure about other types of nesting birds and the bed bugs but cliff swallows are a colony type bird with nest packed tightly together and what I’ve read on the Internet since our misfortune is that fact makes them very conducive to bed bugs. 

We haven’t seen any in our home for the last several months now but we will have [our pest management company] continue the treatments for at least another year.  Like your show stated, they can go for a year without a blood source for food.   They never bothered me but they loved my wife.  She had welts just like the ones that the lady on your show had. 

Just thought I would pass this information along.  We will no longer allow any birds to attach nest to our home.  I have bird houses out for wrens, tree swallows, and bluebirds in the yard and we enjoy watching and listening to them.  We found that using aluminum foil attached to the inside of the windows where the swallows want to nest is a deterrent to them building nests.  I hope this info will help some other unsuspecting people from having the same problems that we do.  —Anonymous

I don’t really have a question, just a comment. We got bedbugs AND scabies from a Washington-State hotel. After 2 and 1/2 years of trying to secure an attorney, or to interest the media, all we could end up with, was taking the case to small claims court. There, we won the case handily but only the $4,000.00 small claim, Washington-State law limit which covered only our barest financial losses. However, we are forever changed and altered by the experience. Beware: in states like Washington - the lawyers don’t see enough money in it for themselves to help you out, nor is it sensational enough for Washington or Montana (where we actually live) newspapers. Get used to being bitten in the butt by more than the bugs themselves! Thanks for bringing this problem to light—it’s bigger than “they” want you to think.—W & S Fister, Montana

Our apartment has been infested for almost 2 years. In the beginning, we had them in our beds and everyday when we wake up we were covered in bites. At first I thought it was an allergic reaction to a food. But, when I saw my husband and son also had them everyday. Then I knew something was wrong. I didn’t realize it was bedbugs until one of my son’s friend said that it was the same kind of bites he had in a hospital stay. I finally went to the Web to see what they looked like. So when I found a couple on the wall, I cried when I knew we had them. The cause was the people downstairs brought in secondhand mattress. We knew something was wrong when it was brought back outside by the garbage—the same mattresses. It has been a nightmare. My son and husband can handle it better than me. I feel it has ruined our lives. We can’t move or buy new furniture. We don’t have enough money. So I live in fear of them, violated, I don’t see them as much but I know they are still here— sometimes in the living room. Bug control has been here 5 or 6 times, it is expensive... so we don’t have them as often. I sleep with the 2 lamps on with the air condition and fan. I am covered up from head to toe. I hope they come out with a chemical that will kill them all in our beautiful country. I know I would rather breathe in the chemicals than live like this. Thank you. —Victoria, N.J.

My family and I relocated from the Washington D.C. area to Mooresville, North Carolina this past September. While waiting for our house to be built we leased a furnished apartment through a corporate relocation agency. About 2 weeks into our stay my husband started with a “rash” and within another week it had spread to me. We could not seem to get rid of this rash so we finally went to a doctor and found out that it was “some type” of bug bites. I called the relocation company that we leased the apartment through and they knew right then it could be bed bugs. I am pretty sure they knew of them before we leased it from them. Sure enough I went and checked the mattress of the master bedroom and found bed bugs right away. I threw almost everything away, including my vacuum. They placed us in a different apartment while they treated the infected apartment. It was only treated once and they replaced the bed and mattress. In November, we moved out of the apartment and into our new home, I put all of our children’s and our clothes in plastic containers and we have left the containers out in the garage. I read that these bugs can stay alive for up to 1 year with out a host. What can I do to make sure not to infect my home just in case there are any bugs in the summer clothes that are in those plastic containers in our garage? This has changed our lives. We are paranoid of these bugs now. When our children are itchy they panic and ask us if they have bugs on them. It is a terrible feeling. I hope one day we won’t worry about it as much.—Dawn, Mooresville, N.C.

I just stayed at a hotel in San Francisco and seen these exact bugs. I described them to my husband as flat tiny bugs and they looked weird. When I seen this show this evening I couldn’t believe my eyes. These are the exact bugs I seen. I was itching for weeks, had welts and everything. It was awful to say the least. When all the welts and itching started I simply thought I was having a reaction from a stressful week at work. Who do you suggest I contact besides the hotel to tell them about this room. I guarantee if it is inspected the bugs will be found.—JRO, Chicago

We have been fighting a bed bug infestation in our home for almost 4 months now. It is truly awful. We live in a big city and our home is attached to the neighbors on both sides. What is the best chemical or pesticide that has been found to fight these horrible critters? We have tried everything. Our clothing and linens have been dry cleaned or washed, and are being stored in sealed trash bags or at a friends house. It seems that they are living in the wall between our home and one of our neighbors. We moved in 5 months ago and were quickly inundated. Thankfully, we don’t have any furniture to speak of. I need advice on the best chemicals to use. Thanks.—Karen Katzoff , Philadelphia, Pa.

My mother lives in elderly housing and has been dealing with this for about a year now. For the longest time she had none and did all the precautions that she could, but finally they arrived at her apartment. They did the extermination and had to remove her sofa, luckily they did not make it to her bedroom. Right now she has none and was recently checked but she lives with everything in plastic bags and the fear that they will be back. The problem though is that they are not doing all the apartments as I feel they should. They do “one at a time” as they are found, you could say. They wash the tenants’ clothes for them and exterminate. The problem though is that most of these tenant’s are elderly, some their vision is not the best and have no idea what to look for and unless something is said they don’t go in and always check. My question is, how do I get the city to listen and take more affirmative action? I have talked to some employees but it is always the same thing, “They are working on it.” Of course my mother doesn’t want to say or do too much in fear of being shunned, embarrassed, or doesn’t want to cause waves as she says. Hopefully someone can tell me what more I can do to help her and the other tenants with this problem. Thank you for your time. —Joy B., Swansea, Mass.

I am a NYC victim of bed bugs. I started getting bites back 3 months ago (12/15). At first I thought it was an allergic reaction to soap, then I thought it was a drug rash from my medication, going back and forth to a dermatologist and getting no resolution as to what was going on with my skin. About 2 weeks ago I noticed every time I stayed elsewhere the hives calmed down. So after research on the Internet I stripped my mattress and found 10 to 20 bed bugs on the box spring. My building had an exterminator come in this past Tuesday and they are still alive on my mattress and I noticed 1 on my toilet paper in the bathroom. I also noticed he did not spray the whole apartment. He said I could keep my mattress, should I throw it away? Or wait till after his next visit in a week and a half? How many times does he need to come to exterminate? I can only sleep on my couch for so long. Also, if I buy a new mattress whose is responsible for paying for it - me or the building? I did find out that there were 2 other reported cases in my building. Please help! Frustrated and unrested, —Michele, Forest Hills, N.Y.