She was wrong.
The insect was a bedbug.
A letter she received from
TownePlace Suites Chicago Lombard, where she began staying Aug.
21, informed her "a bedbug" was found in the room, and confirmed as
such by Ecolab, a
Minnesota-based company that specializes in cleaning, sanitizing,
infection control and food safety.
Brown's estimated 50 bedbug bites itched and swelled so much
that on Wednesday, she had a friend drive her to Advocate
Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, where she was
admitted for treatment of an infection called cellulitis.
"One (bite) on my leg got infected to the point where I couldn't
walk or stand on it," said Brown, 42, of Los Angeles, Calif.
Bedbug bites are a relatively uncommon occurrence among patients
at Good Samaritan Hospital, said Dr. Pranjal Shah, an internal
medicine doctor and attending physician. The hospital will see
about one patient a month with the bites, which usually can be
treated with an antihistamine, he said.
But Brown ran into extra trouble because her bites became
Infections occur in rare cases when scratching at the bite
allows bacteria to enter the body, Shah said.
"What happens while scratching it is that you break down the
skin around it," Brown said. "Once the bacteria that are normally
present over the skin and other bacteria can get into that and
that's how you would get an infection."
After noticing the first bites Aug. 23, Brown said she tried
treating the itch with Benadryl. But she couldn't sleep. She
couldn't avoid scratching the welts. And she just kept getting more
By Tuesday, she knew "there's something really wrong."
A longtime friend who was staying in the same room and sleeping
in the same bed as Brown found a bug in the bed Aug. 27, snapped a
photo of it to show to hotel staff and killed it. The friend,
however, has not gotten any bedbug bites, Brown said.
Each person's body responds differently to bug bites of all
kinds, Shah said. So it's possible Brown's friend also was bitten
but did not react to the bites.
When a person is bitten by bedbugs, Shah recommends washing
clothes and inspecting all personal belongings for small bugs as
soon as possible. The hospital and hotel took the same precaution
with Brown's belongings, having them sanitized to prevent bedbugs
from spreading and others from being bitten.
A representative of the Marriott-owned TownePlace Suites Chicago
Lombard said he would issue a statement in an email, but the Daily
Herald has yet to receive the email.
The infected bites and overnight hospital stay caused Brown to
miss two and a half days of a cake-decorating class at
Enterprises. The class was the reason for Brown's stay in
She said she saved up for the class and was excited to share her
new cake-decorating skills with students at the middle school where
Brown said doctors told her she should be released tday and free
to fly home. But she's unsure if she'll be able to teach right away
or how much continued treatment her infected bedbug bites will
"It's just unfortunate. I can barely stand," she said. "I don't
teach from my chair; that's not me."
But as a teacher, Brown said she wants to let people know it's
important to check for bedbugs when sleeping in a hotel bed.
Organizers of the first National Bed Bug Awareness Month that
began Thursday, Sept. 1 and the North American Bed Bug Summit
scheduled for Sept. 25-27 in Chicago are trying to spread the same
Bed Bug Central, an
information source about the insect run by entomologists, suggests
keeping luggage closed and away from the bed while staying at a
hotel. A list of
bed bug-free travel tips on the site also suggests checking the
bed's linens, mattress and box springs for any signs of live bugs
or dark brown to black spots.
"I'll check now. I'll lift the sheets; I'll check mattresses,"
Brown said. "I'll be more careful in the future."