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As bed bugs shut down one show and inspire another, I sit here reflecting on two years I've spent writing this column for BrickUnderground.
When I began in October 2010, I was but six months escaped from my bedbugged abode, the first apartment I had lived in upon returning to the United States after seven years abroad.
It took a long time to believe that it was over, that the bugs were really gone. My mind was still in the trenches of infestation and paranoia, something that I am happy to report has abated considerably.
Press coverage has subsided, especially since the summer of 2011, when the creatures became notorious for infesting all manner of public places, but bed bugs are still out there, and every day new victims troll frantically for information and help.
As an indication, bed bug-related posts on BrickUnderground have drawn more than 25,000 views in just the past three months. The top draws—which include How to tell a bed bug from an imposter (4,806 views), How to bed bug proof your NYC apartment (3,201 views), Can you get bed bugs or lice from a communal laundry room (3,031 views), and How bed bugs spread through apartment buildings (3,031 views)—provide a quick survey course in modern day bed bug fear and paranoia.
Two years of news alerts from Google for the terms “bed bugs” and “bedbugs” have generated no fewer than1,100 alert e-mails linking to several stories about bed bugs and attempts to combat them. Go back a year, to October of 2009 when I first set up the alerts, and the tally rises to 1,500. That’s when I first recognized that this was a story with legs. Lots of legs. And I myself wasn’t even done with infestation yet, although I would not know that for another couple of months.
So what is new in the battle against the bugs? Are we any closer to getting a handle on this resurgence of a pest that had been, tantalizingly, almost eradicated at the end of the 1950s and now seems to be breeding unchecked?
Numerous municipal governments, including New York’s, have established agencies and organizations to provide accurate and helpful bed bug information. Disclosure laws have been enacted: In New York, landlords and co-ops must disclose to renters and buyers whether there has been a bed bug infestation anywhere in the building in the previous year. (Note that there still is no requirement to notify existing residents of an active bed bug problem in their building.)
Desperate searchers who venture outside the most reputable and accurate bedbug-focused sites on the web—Bedbugger.com, Bed Bugs Beware (UK) and the Bed Bug Resource—have no way of knowing whether what they read is true.
This is most evident in the content of the news alerts I receive today. Many of them consist of advertisements for bed bug products and services that prey on peoples’ bed bug fears. There are also myriad blog entries chock full of questionable information.
The psychological impact of bed bugs is starting to get some much-needed attention, with studies showing how detrimental an infestation can be to both mental and physical health. But on the ground, it often seems that not much has changed since I started writing this column two years ago.
People still contact me with tales of stubborn and/or recalcitrant landlords, ignorant PCOs (pest-control operators) and cases of bed bugs that won’t quit.
The sleep-deprived are still getting no rest.
They are also looking for answers, troubleshooting, and moral support. Which is why, with my own bed bug saga an increasingly distant event, it would seem to be a good time to put my personal experience aside, retire this column, and serve as an example of moving on, post–bed bugs. I will not abandon the cause of furthering education, however. I will be on hand to answer questions; email me here, though for your sake, I hope you don't have to.
Theresa Braine is a NYC-based journalist and bed bug survivor whose work has appeared in the NY Daily News, People, Newsday and other outlets. Bedbugged! is her column about life in the trenches and climbing out with your sanity intact.