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When Bedbugs Attack: The In-Flight Edition

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Photo by bedzine via Flickr
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A woman is raising a ruckus about a flight she took from Los Angeles to London's Heathrow, claiming that while on board, she was attacked by bedbugs. Zane Selkirk, 28, says that the spotted the critter on the blanket British Airways had provided her for the first leg of her flight, reports KTLA. Selkirk attests that once she checked herself out in the airplane lavatory, she spied "bite marks on her back and several bugs hanging onto her shirt." She complained to the flight crew, who moved her seat ("from premium economy to business class,") but seems to be seeking something more from the airline in the form of customer service.

The passenger claims that on the ground, the airline reps were not very helpful, though the airline says they sent Selkirk a written apology and have pledged to look into the case. Was there really anything else she or the airline could have done?

Bedbug infestations have been on the rise in the past few years, and experts in the pest control industry attribute the rise in new infestations in multiple domestic and international cities to...guess what? Prolific air travel. Hotels are hotspots for bedbug infestations, and once they get onto a body or into luggage or on someone's clothing, they will travel with the traveler--most often on airplanes--to other locations.

Here's how KTLA begins their story about Selkirk: "Bed bugs are apparently not just found on beds anymore. Some have managed to infiltrate airplanes." Well, duh:

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World travel is a prime source for the spread of infestations, and, as a result, "[h]otel furniture can be a haven for bedbugs, as can other tourist destinations like airplanes, cruise ships and theaters."

The other charming thing about bedbugs is that while some low-income areas tend to be hotspots of infestation they don't have any mechanism for identifying the socio-economic class of their host bed or body. Moving Selkirk to Business Class was a nice thing to do, but that blanket could have just as easily been handed out there. In September 2010, over 400 cases of bedbugs had been reported in Los Angeles, from Hollywood to the Westlake District. By December those "lentil-sized vampires" were sucking it up in Beverly Hills.

Health experts have long advised that travelers should take precautions to avoid becoming infested with bedbugs. They suggest travelers "carefully inspect hotel rooms, wash all clothes taken on a trip in hot water, and vacuum and treat your luggage."