Palo Alto on Wednesday announced it was closing a public library for a couple of days because of a bed bug infestation.
The city’s website said that Mitchell Park Library would be closed for “one to two” days after bed bugs were found in two chairs on the first floor. The city has asked a pest control company to treat the area.
The city is also sending bed bug-sniffing dogs to the library to inspect four other libraries. Despite a sign posted that says all the city's libraries will be closed, city spokeswoman Claudia Keith said Thursday that only the Mitchell Library is closed. A pop-up library next door was open for business.
Bed bugs, the city said, are not uncommon at libraries and they can sometimes be transported through the sharing of books.
The New York Times even did a piece in 2012 called “A Dark and Itchy Night,” about the bed bugs finding a “new way to hitchhike in and out of beds: library books.” The article cites cases of bed bugs at the Los Angeles Central Library, a library in Wichita, Kansas and a library in Islip, NY.
The common bed bug, or cimex lectularius, has long fed on blood, caused itchy bites and generally irritated their human hosts, cites the the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture all consider bed bugs a public health pest. However, unlike most public health pests, bed bugs are not known to transmit or spread disease.
Experts believe the recent increase in bed bugs in the United States may be due to more travel, lack of knowledge about preventing infestations, increased resistance of bed bugs to pesticides, and ineffective pest control practices, according to the EPA website.
Some people on Thursday jumped on Facebook to blame homeless people who use libraries for causing the problem. But according to the Contra Costa Health Services, there is no correlation between cleanliness and bed bugs. However, the health agency said that clutter provides a huge boon for the bugs to live in, and cited a study that said low income households are most likely to face serious infestations, mostly because they can't afford the treatment and may be afraid to tell the landlord.
For tips on preventing bed bug infestations, click here.