Gettin' Buggy With It: New Yorkers Battle Burgeoning Bed Bug Epidemic

Complaints About The Little Critters Are Rising Fast

Alana Cundy isn't crazy. But she sure felt like she was.

"It's insanity," says the Fort Greene, Brooklyn mom, a professional photographer who recently teamed up with her husband to battle the creepy craze that's been plaguing more and more New Yorkers: bed bugs.

"Something I'd never been bitten by before was biting me," she said.

She's far from alone. New statistics from the city's Department of Housing, Preservation and Development reveal an epidemic: Manhattanites have been complaining about bed bugs at six times the rate they did in 2005. On Staten Island, the number of complaints as soared 32 times higher than it was five years ago.

But the good news -- if you can call it good -- is that bed bugs are relatively harmless. They don't spread disease, according to the city's Department of Health, which has an exhaustive list of frequently asked questions about the drop-sized critters on its website.

The rash of residential complaints coincides with a confluence of commercial incidents: Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister and other stores have decontaminated their downtown locations. And Kings County Hospital briefly closed a triage ward to cope with a patient who'd walked in with a bed bug.

The bad news -- and many New Yorkers would certainly call it bad news -- is that the tenacious little buggers are hard to kill and expensive to eliminate. But it can be done.

Techniques include inspecting your home for bed bug eggs, using a big bed bug-sniffing dog; freezing some of your furniture with special bed bug-killing spray; and throwing your clothes into a high-heat dryer to kill critters that may be hiding there.

And some exterminators recommend encasing your mattress and boxspring in a special big-proof cover.

"It was very expensive," said John Poole, who confirmed what many companies estimate: the cost of controlling the problem can run into the thousands of dollars. But after successfully vanquishing the vermin, Poole declared it was worth every penny.

"If you wanna deal with it and get it out of your system, you've gotta pay." 

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