Cancer treatment chemotherapy roomOne of the most common questions asked about bed bugs is How Do People Get Them?

Last weekend, a dear friend of ours, Carol, tripped over a childproof gate at the bottom of her stairs and broke her ankle. Carol is a wife, mother, grandmother, and active member of the community.

Carol ended up in a large hospital for three days. During her stay, Carol was put in a patient room with a sofa and a stuffed, white chair for visitors. On the first day of Carol’s stay, her whole family was there for her; her husband, her son, her two daughters, daughter and sons-in-law, along with multiple grandchildren.

Several of Carol’s family took turns sitting in the white chair. When one of her son-in-laws sat in the brown chair, he thought he felt something biting him and mentioned to the nurse’s station, that he thought there might be something in Carol’s room. The nurse did a quick inspection, but did not see anything.

That afternoon, Carol’s friends from church showed up. They brought the usual assortment of balloons and flowers. And, one of the church deacons sat in the white chair this time. The deacon didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

The next morning, the gardening club ladies showed up. The ladies took turns sitting in the white chair. They noticed something biting them immediately and mentioned this to Carol. Carol remembered her son-in-law complaining the night before, so the nurse was called again. This was a different nurse. This time the nurse, upon inspecting the chair, saw a small dark red insect along the seam. This nurse had already been trained in the identification of bed bugs and in the hospital’s bed bug action plan. He immediately reported the sighting and began the process to correct the situation.

Carol and her clan were moved to a different room. The room with the white chair was quarantined and treated for bed bugs.

But, that’s not the end of the story, it’s just the beginning. During the treatment, 20 adult bed bugs and several babies emerged from the folds of the white chair. At least 4 people sat directly in the white chair.

o The son-in-law had left to go back to work at his financial planning firm, a large office building downtown, with 11 floors.

o An adult granddaughter took the train back to Chicago where she attends college. She lives in a dorm on campus with 3 other girls.

o Carol’s other grandchildren attend daycare and middle school.

o The deacon didn’t go directly home, he visited another parishioner in the same hospital.

o The gardening club ladies? After visiting with Carol, some of them returned home, while others went out to lunch and then window shopping at the mall.

The long and short of this story, getting bed bugs is as easy as catching a cold. Bed bugs are really a communicable disease and are treated so by public health departments. How do you catch a cold? By being around people with colds or touching surfaces that someone with a cold has touched recently. Unfortunately, washing your hands won’t protect you from bed bugs.

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