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The stigma of my bug bites in New York

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Victoria’s secret, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, AMC 25 movie theatre and the Empire State Building. Apart from throngs of eager tourists, what did all of these New York businesses have in common this past summer? Bedbugs.

Last Saturday morning I woke up with seven bites, 4 on my left arm, 1 on my right and 2 on my face. I quickly established after moving to the United States that mosquitoes are big fans of Irish blood, but this really was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I get bitten a lot, I have tried everything to stave off the nasty critters but few things seem to work. So as I strolled into my moonlighting gig as a weekend bartender on Saturday night, with an arm the size of Popeyes and a swollen face, I was none too impressed.

A few customers couldn’t help themselves from pointing in horror as I itched and scratched my way through the night. “Ouch, what happened to you? Did someone punch you? Why is your arm so swollen?” And then of course it started, bed bug stigma.

Matt from Pennsylvania, looked at me with sympathetic eyes as he told me “Molly you have bedbugs, it’s OK” he reassured me in a hushed voice, “It's New York everyone gets bed bugs.” Everyone thought I was in denial when I insisted that my lacerations were the product of mosquitoes and not the New York unmentionable.

Soon after moving to the big Apple I discovered New York’s epidemic of bed bugs when co-workers told tales of endless battles with the bloodsuckers. One couple got them from a storage unit, another one convinced their uncleanly roommate brought them in. Our deli man downstairs was forced to replace his entire suite of furniture. Relentless insects that invade your personal space and are almost impossible to banish. I recall one of my girlfriends telling me how she had spent the night sleeping on her kitchen table after she made the horrific discovery.

The past summer the epidemic reached new proportions when several retail stores were shut down after an infestation spread like live fire through the city. Even the Empire State Building reported a minor infestation in the building’s basement.

America is crawling with bed bugs because they are developing a resistance to most pesticides. The sneaky bloodsuckers can last up to a year without eating, making them very difficult to eradicate. Dedicated to tackling the problem, New York City government allocated $500,000 to help fight the ongoing problem.

Nocturnal parasites that come out at night to feast on unsuspecting sleepers. Some believe increased global travel to and from New York is a factor for the current epidemic. According to the city’s Department of Housing and Preservation, the number of bedbug violations has gone up 67 percent in the last two years.

So almost a week later, the swelling is gone down, the itching has stopped and my bites are almost gone. Thankfully the apartment is bedbug free and even though the mosquitoes drone on, maybe I should be thankful they’re not the New York alternative.

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