London maternity hospital suffers bedbug outbreak

A maternity ward has become infested with bedbugs forcing hospital staff to wear protective clothing and a series of deep cleans to be carried out regularly.The 50-bed ward at the King’s College Hospital in South East London has also reduced the number of visiting times for relatives and friends of patients who are staying in the areas suffering the infestation.New mothers arriving and leaving the William Gilliatt Ward at the Denmark Hill site have been issued with appropriate advice about dealing with the problem.A number of patients had written online about being surprised by a series of warnings about the bedbugs that have been placed around the postnatal ward in the maternity department.In recent years, there have been reports of an increase in “super-resistant” bedbugs – often having developed an immunity to chemicals used to kill them – infesting parts of London.One theory behind the rise in reports of the bloodsucking insects suggests holidaymakers returning from foreign hotels may be carrying the bugs. Meanwhile, some experts believe gap year travellers may bring the insects back to the UK after their rucksacks become a breeding ground for them.London and the South East have proven particularly susceptible to outbreaks of infestations. Pest controllers have found insects can mutate and become immune to some chemicals if they receive only a non-lethal dose.The tiny bedbugs, which can hide in mattress seams, are usually transparent unless they have fed on blood, often turning them red.They are capable of reproducing rapidly, with a single insect able to spawn a colony of hundreds in a matter of just weeks. They can also survive for months without feeding.A spokesperson for King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “A number of beds on the postnatal ward in our maternity department are being treated for bedbugs.“Following specialist advice the appropriate treatment is being carried out in the affected areas, which includes deep cleaning.“While the treatment process is ongoing, we have taken the decision to reduce visiting in maternity, and staff working in the affected areas are wearing appropriate protective clothing.“Women being admitted to the unit are being informed of the situation, and those being discharged are being given advice and guidance.”Meanwhile, space technology is being used to track down bedbugs. Dr Geraint Morgan of the Open University is testing a detector he helped create and that was used on the Rosetta comet landing mission to hunt the insects by tracing pheromones they release. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.