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Bed bugs discovered on Guam

by Lannie Walker

Guam - It's been a major problem in large cities like New York and Cincinnati in the U.S. mainland, but now it seems the pesky problem has made its way to Guam. Some visitors to the island might have some locals losing sleep.

"Sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite" is a saying most of us are familiar with. But now the question is should island residents be sleeping tight or worrying about bed bugs biting? The parasite that feasts on human blood has made it way to Guam. Dr. Aubrey Moore is an extension entomologist at the University of Guam and said, "The first incident that I know of occurred in 2007 we had one indication that bedbugs were here on island and then the year after there were a few more and the year after that a few more."

Dr. Moore says currently they are getting about one detection of bed bugs per month. Public Health's Division of Environmental Health Supervisor Rosanna Rabago says cooperation is needed to fight against a spreading infestation, saying, "What we wanted to do is establish some sort of partnership amongst all the stakeholders from the University, the Cooperative Extension Services, the Guam Hotel Restaurant Association the pest control companies, Public Health, the Guam EPA, everybody has a vested interest in this in one way or the other."

UOG Pesticide Safety Education Trainer Roland Quitugua says they are working on establishing a database in order to get a scope of the problem and identify how many establishments have reported the bugs. Hotel housekeepers are also now being trained on how to identify the pests. "During that training they are briefed on bedbugs as well, so through a lot of that education and outreach we have been on top of this pest," he said.

While bedbugs may look scary, it's important to note that they are not known to carry diseases. So while the issue is gaining attention here on Guam, we're told it is not yet a major problem. "It's nowhere near the problem it is in the mainland," confirmed Dr. Moore. "Our populations are apparently very, very low out here."

Also very low, says Rabago, is any serious health risks posed by the parasites. "Sometimes if they are scratching or if they develop a bad reaction then we would advise them to seek medical attention," she explained.

The real risk, according to Quitugua, is the social stigma associated with bed bugs. The parasites are thought to have hitched a ride to Guam with travelers and now pose a risk of scaring potential visitors away. "If your establishment is known to have bedbugs what is that going to do to your occupancy?" he asked.

And the tiny bloodsuckers haven't just been found in hotels but in homes and dormitories on Guam as well. While the experts told us there is no need to panic; if you do discover the bed bugs Rabago advises you contact the Department of Public Health, saying, "That's where we would come in - Public Health to conduct sanitation inspection to make sure if there are these insects inside these facilities they are properly taken care of."

You can call 735-7221 for more information.

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