SYDNEY, Australia – 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.