Holiday shoppers and travelers are considering more than where the best deals on gifts and hotel rooms are this season: They’re factoring in the issue of bedbugs, a problem that has been steadily growing across the United States and Canada for some time. As awareness of bedbugs has increased, so has traffic to The Bedbug Registry, a public database of user-submitted bedbug alerts that has been online since 2006.

Poynter Online reports that earlier this year, the Bedbug Registry saw about 3,000 visitors and 20 anonymous posts on bedbug sightings a day, but the site now fields up to 40,000 daily visitors and 100 new posts each day.

It’s no wonder that avoiding bedbugs has become a top concern across the U.S. The resurgence of household bedbug infestations has been significantly more extreme than anything seen in more than 50 years and, to make matters worse, the bloodsucking insects are largely resistant to common pesticides. Bedbug infestations have been reported everywhere from retail shops such as Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch, to hotels and movie theaters, and even to a federal office in Washington, D.C.

According to a nationwide survey recently conducted by Infogroup/ORC on behalf of Enforcer Brand pest control products, one in 10 Americans say that they or someone they know has had a bedbug problem. The number increased to about two in 10 among survey respondents from Northeastern cities such as hard-hit New York.

Conducted by telephone in October, the survey of 1,005 adults revealed that many people have begun altering their behavior in and outside the home in response to recent reports about bedbug infestations.

Among the various statistics collected for Enforcer, which is owned by Zep Inc., the survey showed that 13 percent of respondents say they’ve stopped traveling to hotels or cities with known bedbug problems, and 16 percent claim that they’re consciously avoiding certain establishments out of fear they’ll pick up bedbugs and bring them home.

The survey also revealed that there are a number of misconceptions when it comes to bedbugs. For example, 29 percent of survey respondents said they believe bedbug infestations are caused by a general lack of cleanliness and hygiene, and 37 percent believe that bedbugs spread disease.

Mari Hayes, vice president of product development & marketing at Zep Retail, observes that, “Some of these misconceptions may be why there’s such a stigma attached to having a bedbug problem.” Indeed, a quarter of those surveyed said they would be “too embarrassed” to tell friends or acquaintances if they had a bedbug problem in their home.

Perhaps the most telling of all the statistics found by the Enforcer survey is that 30 percent said they would choose a notoriously painful root canal over a bedbug infestation.

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