When the Bedbugs Bite
After visiting a bar in downtown St. Pete, some patrons left with a little more than fun memories of a good night out. They ended up with painful, unsightly rashes! And the potential cause is something that you might not expect to find in a bar or restaurant.
The suspected culprit? Bedbugs.
After multiple patrons of the bar reported experiencing painful rashes, particularly after sitting on a specific bench at the bar, health inspectors paid a visit. They found at least one live bedbug on the bench, as well as one dead bedbug. It’s still unclear if bedbugs are the sole causes of the rashes, or if other factors, like chemical irritants, played a role. To protect their patrons, the bar has voluntary closed its doors. They are cooperating with the Florida Department of Health to quickly remedy the issue.
Formally known as cimex lectularius, bedbugs are parasitic insects that feed exclusively on blood. They are often found in hotels, dorms, hospitals, apartment, and other places where people frequently come-and-go. It is uncommon to hear of people finding bedbugs in a restaurant or bar, but since they have to potential to travel on people’s clothes, they can be found anywhere.
Generally, bed bugs bites are not fatal. While they feast on blood, they do not transmit blood-borne diseases, like HIV or Zika. The bites, though, can be very uncomfortable. They are often swollen and itchy like mosquito bites. If scratched, the bites can become infected, increasing the chances of an infection.
The Role of Property Owners
To protect their patrons from painful bites, property owner should do their part to keep their property bedbug-free. For hotels, this often includes frequently washing sheets, towels, and other linens, along with making sure rooms are cleaned between guest’s stays. For a bar or restaurant, though bedbugs might be more uncommon, prevention includes proper sanitation of sitting areas or any linens, like napkins or seat covers, as well as taking steps to address any issues reported by patrons. If a patron, hotel guest, or apartment renter complains about bedbugs, the property owner has a duty to address it. If they do not—or if their negligent behavior contributed to the bedbugs—they may be liable for any injuries or infections that occur as a result.
Bedbugs were actually at the center of a 2016 lawsuit against a hotel in the Bahamas. On the last day of her stay at a tropical resort, a woman woke up with hundreds of swollen bites on her body. Upon investigation, she found swarms of bed bugs underneath her mattress. The resort paid for the woman’s hotel stay, but she still sued for damages.
When the Bedbugs Bite
If you think you were bitten by bedbugs while visiting someone else’s property, it is important to document evidence. Take pictures of your injuries and if possible, any bedbugs that you see. Since bedbugs are such good “hitchhikers,” holding someone liable for bedbug bites can be difficult, as you will have to prove where the bites occurred. In an incident like the one at the St. Pete bar, it can be easier to find the source of the bites if other people are injured.
While bedbugs bites might not always lead to permanent injuries—and are therefore not always the strongest grounds for a lawsuit—it is still important to report any bits to your hotel, landlord, or other property owner. That way, they can take steps to address and prevent further issues, like the St. Pete bar is doing, and ensure that the bedbugs don’t bite again!
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