Bed bugs are on the rise in Santa Clara County. Some were found in a Campbell Starbucks shop. Stephanie Chuang reports.
It was supposed to be like most other Friday nights: Grab a coffee and have a nice chat with a friend.
For two South Bay women, however, the trip to a Campbell Starbucks left them with unwanted “visitors.” They asked to have their identities protected because they work for a public agency.
“When we got up to leave, my friend saw a bed bug crawling across her purse. It had been sitting on the table,” explained the first woman. “We let one of the employees know, who said, ‘Well you can just tell a manager,’ but he didn’t seem too concerned.”
“To see one in my local coffee shop where I go three to four times a week to spend several hours enjoying time with my friends, it was a surprise to just see it there,” added a second woman. She said the employee they alerted also concerned her: “He was very nonchalant.”
The first woman said when she got home, she ended up with two bed bugs and woke up with six bites on her neck. Knowing what they were, she put them in bags and froze them, preparing to take them to the Santa Clara County Vector Control. She said after making a call to Starbucks’ public relations and a site manager, she was left feeling even less assured, especially after what she says was the manager’s surprising response.
“He seemed concerned but said well, he’s known for two months and that just horrified me,” she recalled. “I thought for two months people have been coming in there and sitting in those seats or anywhere in that location, and could be taking them home with them.”
Dennis Kalson, the acting director of the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health Department, confirmed that the bed bugs the first woman took to Vector Control from Starbucks turned out to be bed bugs.
“They hitchhiked on customers, regular customers, who used the soft chair,” said Kalson. “They must have reproduced because it looked like they had an infestation.”
The number of bed bug reports in Santa Clara County has increased in recent years, according to the county’s Vector Control, before hitting a plateau in 2012. So far in 2013, there are 38 reports of bed bugs – that’s up 13 from the same time last year.
Russ Parman, the acting manager of Vector Control, said reports of other vectors from mosquitoes to rodents have been declining while bed bug numbers are climbing. He also said now there are reports coming from places other than multi-tenant housing like dorms, apartments and hotels.
“We’re seeing [them] increasingly in private residences,” said Parman. “The first thing a bed bug’s going to do if it’s not terribly, terribly hungry, it’s going to go scurrying off and find a hiding place. If it’s a female when she gets her next batch of egg, she’s going to lay those eggs and the little ones are going to come scurrying out.”
A Starbucks spokesman responded with a statement to NBC Bay Area. He said the company called pest control after the first report of bed bugs, but found no health nor safety risks. He said the company called the same pest control company after the two women reported the problem to county officials.
According to a copy of the second pest control report given to NBC Bay Area by Santa Clara County, the pest company found a total of 10 bed bugs. Starbucks then removed the soft sofa-type seating and Kalson said the county cleared the Starbucks location of bed bugs. The Starbucks statement concluded with, “We are confident that all concerns related to this location have been resolved.”
The warning from Kalson and Parman is that bed bugs can reproduce quickly, so property owners must act quickly if there’s a bed bug sighting. In the meantime, the women who alerted NBC Bay Area and Santa Clara County officials of the bed bugs said they are still feeling a big squeamish.
“I’m concerned about going to watch a movie, going to a coffee shop,” said one of the women. “I probably will not sit in a coffee shop for the forseeable future!”