Woman Says Bed Bugs Bit Her 200 Times at Nashville Hotel
Saturday, July 14, 2012
The Metro Public Health Department is looking into complaints at
a local hotel after a woman complained she received more than 200
bedbug bites during a one-night stay.
Sue Silverstein noticed a few red spots Wednesday morning after her
first night at the Howard Johnson on Brick Church Pike. But when
she woke up from an afternoon nap, bright red, itchy bites covered
"I woke up and got a shock," said Silverstein, 51, in town from San
Francisco to sell ukuleles at the National Association of Music
Merchants convention. She counted more than 200 bites on her legs,
arms, hands and face.
"The owner said, 'I cannot do anything. I can just give you the
money and you check out,'" she said.
In an emailed statement, hotel owner Sam Patel wrote,
"Unfortunately, bedbugs affect numerous businesses and industries
every year, from hotels and restaurants to retail stores and movie
theaters. What's important is that businesses take action once a
situation has been brought to their attention. Upon notice by the
guest, we immediately stopped selling the affected room and have
already brought in experts to professionally examine and clean the
room as necessary."
Health inspector Clint Johnson validated Silverstein's story. He
inspected her room after she reported the incident to the health
"I did see one bedbug - they are really hard to find. If you find
one alive, you can assume there are more," Johnson said. "I've been
on a couple complaints out there this year."
He said the critters are on the rise as Nashville draws more
international travelers who may pick up bedbugs from outside the
"They can shrink down to the width of a piece of paper and slip
through cracks," said Tom Dixon, general manager with
Nashville-based US Pest Protection.
Johnson said he checks surrounding rooms if there is a heavy
infestation. He did not find bedbugs after a second inspection in
another room at the hotel, which was not adjacent to the one
Silverstein stayed in.
Hot steam and a liquid treatment are part of the extermination
process, but the pesky insects are skillful at hiding, especially
the small, sticky eggs they can leave behind. "They can just lay
there for long periods of time," Dixon said.
Problems arise when travelers claim to have bedbug bites just to
get a free room, said Greg Adkins, CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality
Association, which does not list the Brick Church Pike Howard
Johnson as a member. Adkins said some Nashville hotels use
specially trained dogs to sniff out the pests.
Last year, the health department received 67 bedbug complaints at
hotels outside of regular inspections. Only 20 of those were
declared valid, said Brent Hager, director of environmental
"We have to see a live (bug) for us to consider it valid," Johnson
Hotels can have their permits revoked if they do not comply with
department treatment standards.
Silverstein said she'll choose a different hotel next time, but the
incident won't affect her positive image of Music City. "This is a
very nice place - I love the people here," she said.