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Bedbug Complaints Soar In San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) - San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood appears to have been hit hardest by a recent bedbug infestation. Fingers were quickly pointed at the recent heat wave as one of the factors that contributed to this pesky problem in San Francisco.

KCBS Bob Melrose Reporting:

Complaints to San Francisco's Health Department about bedbugs were mainly from tenants and managers in single room occupancy hotels, more commonly known as SROs.

"Bedbugs are not easy to get rid of," lamented Johnson Ojo, the health department's special projects director.

The unusual heat wave in late September seemed to fuel the problem, with the health department fielding hundreds of calls about bedbugs.

Ojo warned that if not caught and aggressively treated right away, bedbugs had the potential to become long-term residents.

"People have become very complacent when dealing with or recognizing bedbugs. Many pest control companies don't know how to deal with bedbugs and I will also say that because of the increase in travel, bedbugs have been brought in from other countries."

That surge in travel, Ojo added, made it a city-wide problem and not an issue limited to lower-end facilities.

"Bedbugs do not discriminate," he warned.

That meant bedbugs had the potential to show up at four-star hotels in the tony parts of town.

All the more reason, insisted Ojo, to nip the problem in the bud.

"A very knowledgeable pest control operator, we call them PCOs," recommended Ojo. He stressed that it was essential that PCOs work in concert with hotel guests, staff and management.

San Francisco was not alone in dealing with bedbugs, Ojo pointed out.

"They can also fly first class through the airplanes, so you see bedbugs both in rich and poor residences."

In fact, bedbugs made headlines this week for making their way into the federal building that houses the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington, D.C.

USAID officials told employees this week that juvenile bedbugs were found in a single office at the agency's tower in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. There were no signs of the bugs elsewhere in the building.

Officials said that a pest control service would inspect offices and that any infected areas would be treated. They also said USAID and the General Services Administration would continue to be proactive to prevent any future bedbug activity.

The blood-feeder bugs are not known to transmit any diseases. But their bites can cause infections and allergic reactions in some people.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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