Bedbugs in The News

November 15th, 2011

Bedbugs are in the news again. Check out this article below from the Charlotte Observer.

County vs. hotel, bed bugs

Health department wants to close hotel for infestation, but loophole won’t allow it.

By Fred Clasen-Kelly
Posted: Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011
Bedbug Insecticide Risk

Bedbug infestations have resurfaced in recent years. They don’t spread disease but cause itching and scabs. Carolyn Kaster – AP

The Mecklenburg County Health Department wants to close a north Charlotte hotel after receiving at least a dozen complaints of bedbugs this year.

But officials concede the Charlotte Garden Inn likely will remain open.

That’s because state law would allow it to continue to operate as a weekly hotel that is unregulated for health and sanitation.

Virtually wiped out of the United States 40 years ago, bedbugs have resurfaced in recent years in North Carolina and across the country.

The latest complaint against the Garden Inn comes from a minister who said her church paid for two homeless men to stay in a room there earlier this month.

When the men alleged bedbugs left bite marks across their bodies, the church demanded a refund, said Wanda Gipson, pastor of Freedom Ministries of Jesus Christ International.

But hotel workers gave the church only $71 of the $160 it had paid, she said.

“They need to be shut down,” Gipson said.

Acting on another complaint about the same room, health inspectors this week confirmed a bedbug infestation, said Bobby Cobb, Mecklenburg deputy health director.

Charlotte Garden Inn management did not return calls to the Observer seeking comment.

Bedbugs, often found in bedding, luggage or clothing, do not spread disease, but their bites cause itching and scabs. Infections can result from scratching bite marks.

Catawba College in Salisbury closed half the campus dorms last fall when an infestation was discovered.

There have been 67 reported cases in Mecklenburg County this year, Cobb said.

County health officials filed paperwork in September to revoke Charlotte Garden Inn’s license after it scored 73.5 on an annual sanitation inspection, Cobb said. If the hotel had scored four points lower, Cobb said authorities could have shut down the business immediately.

He said hotel management at one point this year exterminated bedbugs from the building with pesticide treatments, but the bedbugs returned.

In October, the Garden Inn filed an appeal with the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, allowing it to continue to rent rooms. A hearing is set for February.

Even if the hotel loses, Cobb said, it can remain in business by converting nightly rooms into weekly rentals. Under North Carolina law, local health departments can only regulate sanitation in nightly hotel rooms.

“Seems to me there is a giant hole in N.C. law,” said Mecklenburg Commissioner Bill James, who asked the Health Department to investigate complaints against the Garden Inn and another nearby hotel off Interstate 85 near the Sugar Creek Road exit.

In an email sent to the Health Department this week, James wrote: “Hotels and motels that are allowed to operate just perpetuate the cycle and increase the likelihood that individuals staying at such facilities transfer the bedbugs back to churches, schools, homes and other public places including county offices.”

Gipson, the pastor, said her church paid for the two men to stay at Garden Inn for two weeks. After about a week, she said they had to move the men to another hotel because there were so many bedbugs in the room the men were able to collect them in a cup.

When hotel management learned that the men had contacted city government officials about the bedbugs, they kicked them out and did not allow them to retrieve all of their belongings, Gipson said.

“These people should not be allowed to rent to anyone no matter what the price,” she said.

Cobb, the Health Department deputy director, said he was aware of Gipson’s complaints, but his agency has no authority to investigate because the church rented the rooms on a weekly basis.

Clasen-Kelly: 704-358-5027

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