West Side News

Bed bugs clinging to central Ohio

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

According to travel website Raveable.com, the bedbug problem in central Ohio isn’t improving.

In fact, the website ranks Columbus as one of the nation’s worst 10 cities, with the highest hotel reports of the bugs that feed on human blood but aren’t believed to spread disease.

The website takes reports of bedbugs from hotel guests and has reported a significant increase in the past year. In 2010, the website had 10 hotels report bedbugs and 11 individuals report finding them in Columbus hotels. In 2011, 15 hotels thus far have reported finding bedbugs, and the website has taken 21 individual reports.

“We do understand the negative impact a report of bedbugs can have on a hotel’s reputation,” Raveable CEO Philip Vaughn said. “For each report submitted, we attempt to contact the users who submit reports on our website. We occasionally ask for a booking receipt, room numbers or photos of their stay to provide additional verification.”

The site that began tracking bedbug reports in 2009 and posted them in 2010 also checks other travel sites for bedbug complaints, Vaughn said.

Paul Wenning, special-projects coordinator at Franklin County Public Health, said he was surprised that Columbus was ranked so high on Raveable, which claims Columbus hotels carry a 350-percent higher risk of having bedbugs.

“What I’ve seen, at least in the suburbs, É most hotels are being very diligent,” he said. “Most hotels understand that because travelers bring bedbugs, they have to be diligent and treat (for them).”

Franklin County Public Health does not often get involved with bedbug issues at hotels, Wenning said. Columbus Public Health and the state fire marshal’s office also take complaints.

The problem goes beyond hotels.

“It’s huge,” Wenning said. “I don’t know the statistics off the top of my head, but every year since 2007, we’ve seen a major increase of bedbug complaints. É People call, asking a lot of questions because it’s a very new thing. We did not until this year log calls that are coming in by ZIP code.”

A report by the Ohio Bed Bug Workgroup was issued to Gov. John Kasich and state legislators in January, making recommendations on ways to prevent and control the spread of bedbugs.

Little progress has been made, though.

“While we don’t have specific details at this time, it is our understanding that bedbugs are recognized as an important public health issue, and ongoing policy decisions are under way in the legislature,” Ohio Department of Health public-affairs officer Shannon Libby said.

Wenning, also a member of the Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force, said the problem is not going away.

“This is not just in residential housing. We have problems in schools, hospitals, anywhere people go,” he said. “I don’t see an improvement in the number of bedbug cases.”

The Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force will host its fourth annual bedbug summit Sept. 9 at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church. The free day of education will include information on bedbugs in offices, best practices, enforcement issues and legal issues.

As of last week, Wenning said, more than 300 people had signed up.

For more information on the bedbug summit, look online at centralohiobedbugs.org.

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