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Page last updated at 10:29 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009
Bedbug cases on the rise in NY

By Iain Mackenzie
Newsbeat US reporter

Person on a bed
Cases of bedbugs in New York have rocketed in the last few years

Most tourists visiting New York bring something back with them. Usually it's a plastic Statue of Liberty or an 'I heart NYC' T-shirt. For Rebecca Riis it was bedbugs, picked up in a notoriously grotty Manhattan hotel.

"I woke up in the middle of the night and was really itchy and thought, 'Oh no, what is this?' I realised I had basically been bitten all over," said Rebecca.

The London-based lawyer believes the bugs were then carried back to the UK on her flatmate's clothes.

"We had to get the whole house fumigated twice by professionals to get rid of the bedbugs and that's really, really expensive."

Finding bedbugs in New York isn't difficult. Their numbers have exploded in recent years.

Growing problem

Reported cases rose 34% last year to more than 10,000. The actual number is thought to be much higher.

"It's the tip of the iceberg," said bedbug exterminator John Furman.

His company, Boot A Pest, is seeing a steady stream of desperate homeowners struggling with infestations.

You can sit in a coffee house and get bedbugs, you can go on a train and get bedbugs
Bedbug exterminator John Furman

Newsbeat joined him at an apartment in the borough of Brooklyn.

"This is a king-size bed. There was a huge number on this. There were three to four or five hundred bugs on here. Plenty of eggs. All different life stages," said John.

"It's just our lifestyle. It's what we do. You can sit in a coffee house and get bedbugs, you can go on a train and get bedbugs."

John believes that the upsurge in cases is due, in part, to changes in chemicals used by exterminators.

Population rise

In the past many pesticides, including the controversial DDT, killed a wide range of insects. Cockroach treatments, for example, would also wipe out bedbugs.

New York street
Authorities in New York are looking at ways to tackle the problem

"Our products now are much more targeted," said John. "I think that has a lot to do with allowing the population to bounce back up."

The UK has seen similarly large increases in the number of infestations. London is among the worst affected areas.

However, authorities in New York have become so concerned about bedbugs that the city council has appointed a task force to examine ways of tackling the problem.

Among the measures it is expected to consider is a ban on selling second-hand mattresses and better training for exterminators.

There's also likely to be a public education programme.

The proposals are being welcomed by Renee Corea from campaign group New York Vs Bedbugs.

"Infestations are not being discovered quickly so they are growing. By the time people are discovering them it's harder to eradicate them.

"Then they are being mismanaged, either by the property owners, by the residents themselves or even the pest management companies," said Renee.

"If we increase everybody's knowledge then we can tackle the problem more quickly."

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