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Bedbug infestation confirmed at Cherry Point barracks

Apr. 10, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
A Cherry Point Marine displays bedbug bites on his hand.
A Cherry Point Marine displays bedbug bites on his hand. (Courtesy of a Cherry Point Marine sergeant)
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A bedbug crawls across a bed at Cherry Point Barracks 4169. The vampiric pests are spreading across the base. (Courtesy of a Cherry Point Marine sergeant)

Despite quiet attempts to eradicate the problem, a bed bugs infestation appears to be spreading at a North Carolina Marine Corps base.

Officials with Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point confirmed this week that they had verified multiple infestations of bedbugs in an enlisted barracks since August 2013—and they confirmed another infestation Wednesday.

First Lt. Hector Alejandro told Marine Corps Times that the base had investigated and confirmed three reports of bedbugs at Barracks 4169 in the last eight months.

“In each case, it was two adjoining rooms that were reported — and none of the rooms had repeat reports over this period,” he said, via email. “In each case, the reports were investigated [and] confirmed and the rooms were treated for bedbugs. Subsequent inspections of the rooms and adjacent rooms confirmed that the bed bugs were eradicated.”

Marine Corps Times became aware of the bed bugs problem on the base when a Marine sergeant brought the problem to the paper’s attention.

The Marine, who identified himself as a member of Cherry Point’s Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2 but asked that his name be withheld because he was not authorized to speak with the media, said he was aware of two bug infestations: one in late December or early January, and one in March.

The first infestation happened when he was serving as a unit liaison for the barracks. He snapped photographs of a bug crawling on one of the beds and ugly bites on the body of one of the infested rooms’ residents.

The problem was reported to the unit command, he said, and the Marines involved were referred to medical attention and moved out of their rooms. Later, the Marine said, he moved into a room next to one that had been infested. He started to notice bites on his body soon afterward. When he reported the problem, he said, he was told to clean all his gear and move into a different room.

But, he said, he was not provided with resources to eradicate the bugs. So, he spent hundreds of dollars of his own money on cleaning supplies , taping his combat gear and clothing into airtight garbage bags. To his knowledge, the Marine said, the other barracks residents had not been informed about the problem, and he said he was frustrated overall with how the Marines had been left to deal with the issue on their own.

“It’s mind-numbing,” he said. “I'm still healing up from some of the bites too.”

Marine officials said the process of dealing with the bugs was more hands-on than the Marine indicated. The eradication process included relocation of Marines to other rooms while their rooms were cleaned and inspected, Alejandro said, and residents of affected rooms were given instructions on how to isolate their clothing and gear until it could be cleaned and inspected.

Flyers were also distributed to room residents on how to inspect and clean their clothing, he said, and Marines in the barracks were informed about about the infestation during a formation and told how to look for the bugs.

“Military barracks are closely inspected at least weekly for neatness and cleanliness,” he said. “These inspections also take into consideration that, as frequent world travelers, military personnel are at greater risk of unknowingly coming into contact with and transporting bedbugs.”

Alejandro did not immediately respond to the Marine’s contention that he had to pay for his own cleaning supplies.

A common blight in hotels and urban residences, bed bugs can be extremely difficult to eradicate, and the Environmental Protection Agency recommends contacting a certified professional to treat the problem.

The most recent reported outbreak on a Marine Corps base was in 2010, when seven barracks rooms aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C. were confirmed to be infested with the bugs. Officials said at the time that it was the first reported outbreak for the base.

Other bases are going to great lengths to avoid such a problem: Marine base Camp Pendleton, Calif. awarded a contract worth more than $228,000 for bedbug-resistant mattresses for its base housing on April 8.

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