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Australia at Risk of a Bed Bug ‘Pandemic’

February 3, 2006

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Planning a vacation to Australia? Consider bringing your own bedsheets. Pest control operators have reported a 1,000 percent increase over the last four years in the number of bed bug infestations reported and treated, according to Stephen Doggett, a head scientist with the Department of Medical Entomology at Sydney’s Westmead hospital.

Doggett said Australia and other countries are at risk of a ``worldwide pandemic″ of bed bugs, due largely to an increase in the number of tourists arriving from developing countries where the biting bugs are common.

``Bed bugs have been an ongoing problem in Third World nations and so it’s likely that, just because of the huge amount of people movement, there’s been a great opportunity for bed bugs to be carried round the world,″ Doggett said.

He said a number of hotels and backpacker hostels have been forced to temporarily close to eradicate the pests.

But Peta Irvine from the Australian Hotels Association said labeling the problem a pandemic was an exaggeration.

``I think that’s probably overstating the situation,″ Irvine said. ``Certainly we have had incidents of them in hotels in Australia and hotels have been really proactive in addressing the problem,″ she added.

``Unless you start screening people at the borders and start screening their clothing and baggage, you can’t stop them coming in,″ Irvine said.

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