Bed bugs infest the UN

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LISA MULLINS: Fears of a bed bug epidemic has New York City on alert. The dreaded blood-sucking insects are more annoying than harmful. But they're notoriously difficult to eradicate. And they've moved out of the bedroom into restaurants, department stores, schools and now into the United Nations headquarters building in New York. Colum Lynch covers the UN for the Washington Post. He also writes about this newest infestation in his blog, Turtle Bay. I hope it's going to be a pretty tough review of security measures after this breach at the UN. How bad is the infestation of bed bugs?

COLUM LYNCH: Well, it entered the building, the most recent episode, a couple of days ago over the weekend and a lot of the furniture at the UN is kind of vintage stuff. Lots of [INDISCERNIBLE] Naugahyde leather and so apparently they made their way into a couple of these chairs in the conference room in the old library where they put the UN press corp and some of the staff that's responsible for overseeing a massive renovation of the building. And they brought in some sniffing dogs over the weekend and they discovered a number of them there. The UN officials who use that space insist that no one has been bitten, no one has received any rashes or any other problems and that they're fairly confident at the moment that they have tackled the problem.

MULLINS: But if nobody's been bitten, how did they figure out they had bed bugs there in the first place?

LYNCH: This is a mystery which has not been uncovered. I asked them about it and they didn't have an answer for that. But it did sound like there must have been a sighting or something like that. But the people who use the conference room insisted no one's been bitten.

MULLINS: Now, I wonder if there's a little bit of spin control going on here.

LYNCH: Well, I can't say for sure but I suspect that there might be. I mean there have been efforts to minimize the extent of the bed bugs. There was a case off campus last year where the UN discovered a serious infestation in one of the buildings that UN staff has been using during the renovation. They detected a presence of bed bugs in 90% of the floors that were tested in the building. They fumigated the place twice and months later the head of that division complained to UN headquarters that the place was still infected. Now, the UN sort of indicated that this guy was probably exaggerating the problem and the problem is that they can't really tell whether the bed bugs have been eradicated or not because when they bring the dogs into sniff for presence of these bed bugs, they can't tell the difference between a live bed bug and a dead one.

MULLINS: By the way, how do you know if your blood has been sucked by a bed bug?

LYNCH: I guess you get sort of welts on your skin and other sort of awful signs of it. We sort of worry about it. I have kids in New York and you're sort of always wondering are they going to come back into your apartment and require an incredibly expensive effort to get rid of them and, so far, we've been fortunate and we haven't been struck, but�

MULLINS: Colum, you're the one who works at the United Nations. They're probably wondering if daddy's going to come back and infest the rest of the home.

LYNCH: Well, ever since I wrote this story I've been wondering whether I should be reporting from a remote location. We're about two floors away from the scene of the crime and I've been asking around to see whether they brought these dogs in to sniff our area which is all covered with carpet. So, you sort of wonder whether it's just a matter of time before they get us.

MULLINS: Keep doing what you're doing, Colum. Stay bite free. Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch giving us the latest on the bed bug infestation that has spread to the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Thanks again.

LYNCH: Thanks a lot, Lisa. Take care.