Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Motel bed bugs bite woman 300 times

Night's stay in Auckland ends in two weeks of suffering, big medical bills

Debbie Roome had an allergic reaction after being bitten by bed bugs at an airport motel.
Debbie Roome had an allergic reaction after being bitten by bed bugs at an airport motel.

A woman suffered a painful allergic reaction after being bitten 300 times by bed bugs at an Auckland motel.

Debbie Roome, 44, flew to the city for a friend's graduation on December 15 and checked into the Auckland Airport Kiwi Motel in Mangere for the night.

The next morning her face and body were covered in bites, which became increasingly painful and itchy.

She was due to return to her Christchurch home that night, but while in the Koru Lounge she started to feel extremely unwell and approached staff for help.

"They called in medics, they weren't prepared to fly me like that," Mrs Roome told the Weekend Herald. "I could feel my face swelling, my lips were tingling and I was covered in these big red welts."

She saw a doctor who diagnosed an allergic reaction to bed bug bites and gave her a prescription to ease her symptoms.

"It was scary, I was on my own and I didn't know if it was going to get worse ...

I went to a different place to stay. I was in pain the whole night, not just itching but very sharp pain in each of the bites."

Mrs Roome flew home on December 17, but the bites began to flare up again on Christmas Eve, forcing her back to the doctor.

"My own doctor was quite horrified. He said it looked like I'd only been bitten the day before. He gave me antibiotics for 16 days and cream for my skin."

So far, Mrs Roome has spent about $304 on medical appointments, prescriptions and taxis to and from Auckland Airport. Motel staff refunded her night's accommodation and paid $130 towards her initial medical costs, but she wants them to foot the entire bill. "If the room had been free of bugs, I wouldn't have had to pay out any of the extra $304.30 that it has cost me to date."

In an email to Mrs Roome, the motel's general manager, Shalend Prasad, said staff had given a refund for the room "in order to compensate to your expenses related to the incident".

He added: "Nevertheless, I will refund the amount of which the receipt is attached in your email. Your illness while staying with us is a concern to me after spending such a huge money on housekeeping and pest control."

Yesterday, Mr Prasad said the safety and health of his guests was "paramount". The motel was regularly checked by pest control experts to prevent such incidents. He believed the bugs might have been introduced by the guests in the room before Mrs Roome, a group of European tourists who stayed seven nights and checked out the day she arrived.

"It should not have happened, but I can't stop it. They come from the outside," Mr Prasad said.

He was on leave but would contact Mrs Roome when back at work to discuss her additional medical costs.


What are bed bugs?

• Small insects that feed on the blood of sleeping people and animals at night.
• Adult bugs are a reddish brown colour. They have a flat oval body around 4mm-7mm long.
• During the day, they hide in dry, dark places.
• The bites of bed bugs aren't usually a health hazard, but they can be irritating and scratching can cause infection.

Symptoms

• Some people have no reaction and don't even develop bite marks, others are allergic to bed bugs' saliva and may get painful swelling or enlarged bite marks.
• Most people get a series of itchy bites, similar to mosquito or sandfly bites, which may not show up for a few days.

Treatment

• Avoid scratching.
• If you have a mild allergic reaction, use an antihistamine.
• In the rare event of an anaphylactic reaction, dial 111 immediately.

Prevention

• When travelling, always check your hotel room for bed bugs.
• Keep bags off floor, and check them for bugs before you leave.
• When you get home, wash your clothes in hot water.
• Vacuum the inside and outside of your bags, paying special attention to creases, then empty the vacuum cleaner into a plastic bag and seal it.

- NZ Herald

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