Are Bedbugs Biting Big Apple Commuters?

"If you think about large groups of people, in many cases this is how bedbugs are transported," she said. "I know they've been found in movie theaters and other strange places. I know of nothing specific to any subway station, but if there's upholstery anywhere, they can live in it."

Despite a shortage of upholstered surfaces in most subway trains, Eisenberg said bedbugs, much like humans, can use trains to move from place to place.

"Subways don't have a lot of [upholstery], which I think is their saving grace," he said. "But buses do have upholstery, so that is a problem."

Getting the Bugs Out

If the New York City subway is infested with bedbugs, it will be a problem that will warrant quick action. After a long-term decline, bedbugs have rebounded in the United States in recent years partly because of increased international travel.

The insects, which can be elusive due to their small size and nocturnal nature, are known to be able to live in both fibers and wood. They are also known for their bites, which lead to itchy bumps on the skin.

But the bite can lead to more than an itch. According to reports from the U.S. Public Health Service, bedbugs are known to carry dozens of infectious diseases, from smallpox to the flu.

The good news, Eisenberg said, is that exterminators could likely rid a subway system of an infestation without disrupting its service.

"These things can be done at nighttime," Eisenberg said. "Most trains are taken offline at some point for cleaning anyway."

"It shouldn't be a big deal, except God knows how many thousand subway cars there are in New York City."

As for NYC Transit, it said that in the event a bedbug infestation is confirmed on the subway system, the next step is clear.

"Getting rid of them," Seaton said.

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