One more reason not to travel: super-bedbugs

One more reason not to travel: super-bedbugs

Summary: As a nurse, I'm concerned about a far more serious malady that's just turned from bad to the holy-cow-that's-super-bad kind of worse.

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TOPICS: Health
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Many of our ZDNet readers travel regularly. A big part of the reason mobile technology is so important to us is that it allows us to stay connected as we move about.

IT people are regularly concerned about malware and viruses you might catch while operating on open WiFi networks. But as a nurse, I'm concerned about a far more serious malady that's just turned from bad to the holy-cow-that's-super-bad kind of worse.

I'm talking about super-bedbugs, infected with something called MRSA. MRSA (pronounced mer-sah) stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and it's a nasty, nasty bacterium.

If you've ever seen Aliens, imagine that nasty guy, multiplied millions of times over, spreading inside the body. Okay, it's not exactly a perfect metaphor, but it is that scary.

Let me try again. If you've ever played Halo you know of the Flood. Imagine them, taking over in tiny form, spreading from a single point outward throughout the body, almost impossible to kill. Again, that's not exactly accurate from a medical perspective, but it conveys the run-screaming-down-the-hall feel.

MRSA is nasty. It's very difficult to kill. Essentially, it resists treatment by the antibiotics we've always found effective. Once a person is infected with MRSA, it's very difficult to remove it from the body, and may necessitate amputation or cause death in extreme cases.

In the hospital, if a patient is infected with MRSA, we have to suit up in special "contact precautions" gear to even get close. This makes patient care more challenging, but it helps ensure that the staph-infection-on-steroids won't be spread to others. However, the precautions are hard on the patient, who already feels isolated and frightened.

So, now, let's get back to travelers and bedbugs.

Bedbugs have become a very big problem in many cities, both in homes and hotels. Hotels and motels are particular problems, because they have so many people traipsing on through, possibly moving the bugs around in their luggage.

Bedbugs suck. Bedbugs with MRSA are terrifying. Scientists have now discovered bedbugs carrying MRSA 'superbug' germ.

According to the CBS New York article, this is still a small sampling, but the prospects are just horrifying.

So, if you wanted another excuse to sell your boss on telepresence technology, consider this a gift from me, to you. Personally, I don't think I'm going to leave the house for the next decade.

If you do have to travel, avoid putting your suitcase on the bed. While in the hotel, consider just bagging the whole suitcase in a dry cleaning bag, if available. When you get home, you might want to put the whole suitcase in a bag, and stick it in a chest freezer, if you have one. Take as many precautions against bedbugs as you can. They've always been an expensive hassle to deal with, and now they're getting quite dangerous.

Share your travel stories and recommendations in the TalkBacks below. Have you encountered bedbugs? What are you doing to stay safe?

Topic: Health

About

Denise Amrich is a Registered Nurse, the health care advisor for the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, and a mentor for the Virtual Campus at Florida's Brevard Community College.


Nothing in this article is meant to be a substitute for medical advice, and shouldn't be considered as such. If you are in need of medical help, please see your doctor.

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Talkback

21 comments
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  • Please Reread that Article

    This rumor is spreading all over the web. Many websites are falsely reporting the bedbugs are the source of contamination, when in fact, researchers are not sure if they are or not. Bedbugs were found near the patients who contracted the bacterial infection, but they have NOT determined the bacteria came from the bedbugs:
    "Bedbugs have not been known to spread disease, and there?s no clear evidence that the five bedbugs found on the patients or their belongings had spread the MRSA germ they were carrying or a second less dangerous drug-resistant bacteria."
    jpr75_z
  • If you're going to compare to Halo

    get the names right. What you are referring to is called the flood, not the swarm...
    Crion629
    • RE: One more reason not to travel: super-bedbugs

      @Crion629
      She did call it the Flood, and considering this is an article about a health issue for travelers, you picked a fine point to nit-pick on. Good sense of priorities you got there, buddy.
      mlashinsky
  • RE: One more reason not to travel: super-bedbugs

    Isn't MRSA (pronounced M.R.S.A.) something that's almost exclusive to hospitals? Sure, times are changing and bacteria too but articles like this are not helping. They spread panic where it may not exist without a jolt of reliable evidence.
    kitko
    • RE: One more reason not to travel: super-bedbugs

      @kitko

      Good point. I seriously doubt that bedbugs are spreading MRSA anymore than humans are outside of hospitals when it comes down to it.
      Lerianis10
  • We all have it

    MRSA is a serious problem in the UK as many hospitals have been found with it. But my understanding is that almost all people carry MRSA around with them. However, a normal healthy human being can easily fight it off. Where it is a concern in hospitals is that it can enter deep internal wounds from ops etc to already weakened patients. Then is can literally be fatal.
    But a normal healthy person sleeping on a bed with superbug MRSA bugs in it I don't think is going to be in that much trouble. Otherwise the press outcry would make the bird flu thing look like a whisper.
    StephenInScotland
  • RE: One more reason not to travel: super-bedbugs

    scary I am American living in Thailand which is not the most cleanest place on earth & I do have to use hotel some times maybe I will buy a bug spray & spray my luggage before I leave the hotel for home as well as my dirty laundry bag & wash every thing when I get home & leave my suitcase out side & spray it again thank goodness my washer & dryer are out side in the back in my thai kitchen
    aznyron1
    • There are well documented cases..

      @aznyron@... of death due to "poison overdoses".

      In Thailand, there was a very recent case of a young New Zealand national who died due to complications at a hotel there. Apparently, the hotel had been dosing the rooms with a highly toxic, insecticide. To make matters worse, they were carrying out treatment during stays for hotel patrons.

      Toxicology reports confirm she had incredibly high levels of the particular insecticide in her bloodstream. The coroner concluded it was the cause of death.

      Granted, this has nothing to do with MRSA, but the obvious tie-in is the mention of bed bugs (which the hotel, in question, was trying to treat) and you stating that you're currently in Thailand.

      Regards.
      thx-1138_
    • RE: One more reason not to travel: super-bedbugs

      @aznyron@... I would be very scared to sleep in a hotel in Thailand... But, you do what you gotta do, right!? Anyway, you can get bed bug kits online here: <a href="http://www.domyownpestcontrol.com/bed-bugs-c-39.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.domyownpestcontrol.com/bed-bugs-c-39.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.domyownpestcontrol.com/bed-bugs-c-39.html</a></a>. I think they even have kits specifically for traveling.<br><br>Cheers!
      JohnSams
  • Not so fast.

    Journalists are so irresponsible. I don't mean necessarily Denise who wrote this one here. But others who stated that a link was a found, when in fact it wasn't, it's a *preliminary* correlation found in a crazy small sample space. I can easily find that the phases of the moon cause flu or that me eating ice-cream interferes with my college grades if I 'choose' the sample space 'properly'. Even if the link get to be confirmed... it's my understanding that MRSA is everywhere.
    cameigons
  • RE: One more reason not to travel: super-bedbugs

    Frank, the BedBugChaser here, you may want to read this story http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110511/ap_on_he_me/us_med_bedbug_superbug;_ylt=AneoRR0nqlQgUeAf3qdV5jhY24cA;_ylu=X3oDMTM0bTQxdms2BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTEwNTExL3VzX21lZF9iZWRidWdfc3VwZXJidWcEY2NvZGUDZ21wZQRjcG9zAzUEcG9zAzUEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yaWVzBHNsawNhbGFybWluZ2NvbWI . It's scary isn't it, BedBugs found carrying a deadly disease! Also, Avtron just finished our latest and greatest weapon in the war on BedBugs, go to http://www.avtronloadbank.com/lb_whatsnew.htm#Heater to see the what the future holds for the BedBug
    bedbugchaser
  • RE: One more reason not to travel: super-bedbugs

    Frank, the BedBugChaser here, you may want to Google "Alarming combo: Bedbugs with 'superbug' germ found" this story is scary, isn't it? Also, Avtron just finished our latest and greatest weapon in the war on BedBugs, go to http://www.avtronloadbank.com/lb_whatsnew.htm#Heater to see the what the future holds for the BedBug.
    bedbugchaser
  • BedBug Survivor

    Had a run-in with bedbugs in Thailand. They are definitely on the island of Ko Samet, just outside of Bangkok. Not to alarm people because that place is a paradise and definitely well worth visiting (full moon parties, gorgeous beaches, etc); but word to the wise: "if it seems to good to be true, it probably is".

    Long story short, don't stay in the $5/night huts with cracked floors which make perfect hives for BedBugs.

    Some tips for bedbug prevention while travelling:
    - Bed bugs thrive primarily in hard to clean areas especially fibrous (i.e. carpet or clothing) in which they can hide
    - They may also live behind wallp paper or on solid surfaces that aren't vaccuumed or otherwise cleaned regularly (here's where the misconception comes in about cleanliness being the only factor in infestations, really its just one small factor)
    - Bag everything in sealable bags (including and especially dirty laundry)
    - Bring a high-heat handheld steamer if possible
    - Don't unpack your suitcase or ever leave it open for extended periods of time, always keep it zipped sealed shut unless quickly removing a sealed bag of clothes
    - When choosing or handling clothes, try to do it outside of your room and away from any carpeted area (your room's bathroom, lobby restroom, fitness club change room without carpet, etc)
    - Change in your bathroom not on the bed or in the middle of the room (usually bathrooms will be tiled, and hopefully not carpeted, that'd be weird anyway)
    - Never leave clothes lying around the room or on your bed (obviously)
    - Clean clothes immediately after wearing at your hotel or (better yet) the nearest Laundry facilities but only if they have hot water and high heat dryers
    - If heading to known bedbug infested areas, be sure to bring a repellant soap or shampoo (but be careful, DEET or other strong chemicals may only do a minimal job at keeping bedbugs away, while having a high toxicity and much worse health effect than getting nibbled on for the night)
    - REMEMBER BedBug infestations have little to do with cleanliness, know that they can infest gorgeously clean looking luxury suites just as easily as they can infest a hostel or cheap motel-looking room

    Last but not least, if you realize your hotel does have bedbugs (bite marks, odour, or visibly identify bedbugs or their droppings) the first thing you need to do is relax. Get out if you can, try to find other hotels known to be clean; if you took the precautionary steps above you should be able to switch hotels without transferring them (but the same doesn't go for your travel mates unless they are equally cautious).
    bcmoney
    • Honey, I'm going to the gym to choose my clothes....

      @bcmoney
      really?
      JimboNobody
  • There isn't a documented case...

    ...of bedbugs transmitting disease. Period.

    (MRSA carrying bedbugs have also been found in Vancouver, B.C.)
    Marc Erickson
  • You're absolutely right ..

    .. all the sudden telepresence (does) have a nice ring to it.

    All power to Web Conferencing .. from the clean (..for the most part), comfort of your own home.

    ;)
    thx-1138_
  • RE: One more reason not to travel: super-bedbugs

    Wake me when the zombie bedbug arrives.
    james347
  • Since when did bug talk...

    ...Tech news? zzZZZ
    MrElectrifyer
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  • RE: One more reason not to travel: super-bedbugs

    As a person with a child who has a MRSA skin infection, I'm horrified to read about it's widespread existence in the community but I am also horrified to read your statements about amputation and death. It's important to note that in skin infections it can be taken care of and most likely won't lead to severe issues. Your statements do nothing to help the panic in the community when they read about MRSA and it's effects.
    bast_13