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EDITORIAL: Don’t let the bedbugs bite


EDITORIAL: Don’t let the bedbugs bite

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CHINKS, CHIGGERS, BEDBUGS – even as we celebrate 50 years of Independence these are words that would hardly bring back pleasant memories to Barbadians of an older generation.

While the pests would have themselves been a problem, their existence at a time when a significant portion of the population only knew mattresses and pillows made of flour bags or crocus bags and stuffed with dried khus khus grass or old cloth served to compound the problem.

This in an era when running water in homes was nothing short of a luxury and as a result the standpipe was the equivalent of today’s laundromat – and much more.

Let’s now fast-forward to today and the news from officials of the Ministry of Health that bedbugs have re-emerged as a serious problem across the country, with one official giving character to the situation by revealing he no longer sits in public seats or offer drops in his car to anyone for fear of taking home the pesky, blood-sucking critters with him.

It would appear that while this time around the spread of the pest is just as much connected to lifestyle as it was back in the pre-Independence era, it’s a totally different lifestyle giving it momentum. The astronomical growth in world travel has been fingered as the primary target. It is believed that bedbugs may have been reintroduced to Barbados from New York, now being described by health officials as “the bedbug capital of the world”.

And unless individual Barbadians are prepared to act decisively, this is a problem that is likely to grow. The 2016-17 winter tourist season is just over five weeks away, which means an influx of tourists from the Big Apple and other centres of the world, and with some of them will come bedbugs.

At the same time, as the plane loads of visitors arrive and fan out to our hotels, so too will the hordes of hotel workers who will interact with them, in the process picking up the bedbugs and offering them a free ride to the hospitality of their homes where they can suck freely on their blood.

Fortunately, bed bugs are not known to spread disease, but their infestation and bites can be the source of considerable discomfort for those who suffer. It is important therefore that Barbadians not assume the thing biting them at night is a mosquito, but be vigilant and take action to eradicate the pest when they turn up in their homes.

Our hoteliers, taxi operators and others who service visitors also have a role to play.

While acting to prevent the further spread of the bedbug, Barbadians also ought to recognise that this latest challenge is a reflection of the world in which we now live, where borders are nothing more than lines drawn on a map.

Health and agricultural officials have constantly to be on the lookout for new pests that hitch a ride in ships and planes and in cargo, luggage and any other hosts that circle the globe daily. The problems we have had with the giant African snail, the citrus leaf miner, the mealy bug, strange worms attacking frangipani plants and mites destroying palm trees are all evidence of this new world.

Bajans who now find themselves back at the standpipe, or its modern-day brother called the community tank, may reasonably wonder if we are regressing to a time we all thought had passed forever. But while pressure on Government may solve this problem, the return of the bedbug and the appearance of so many new pests require the intervention of all Bajans to prevent new national headaches.