By Melissa Ruggieri
The Atlanta Journal-Constituition
Bedbugs can follow you, but now it’s time for retaliation.
The new Bed Bug Alert app for the Apple iPhone enables users to input data about bedbug incidents and see where others have reported sightings anywhere in the nation.
The $1.99 app was developed by Adam Kotkin, CEO of Apps Genius, who lives in the bed bug capital, New York.
“About once a week I rip off my sheets and start looking closely. I haven’t been to a movie in six months. I hate public places right now,” Kotkin said.
Atlanta doesn’t make the top 10 list of cities with the most reported bedbug sightings. (Following New York are Philadelphia, Detroit, Cincinnati and Chicago.) But there are 25 hotels in metro Atlanta marked by red pinpoints on the the app, which uses Google maps for users to zoom in on locations.
The Georgia Department of Community Health doesn’t track bedbug infestations in the state because they’re too common, a spokeswoman said last week. Local health departments are likely to keep closer track; for example, the Fulton County Department of Public Health has logged nine complaints about bedbugs in the county in 2010. Kevin Jones, acting director of environmental health services, said five complaints came from “tourist accommodations” (hotels and motels) and two each from homeless shelters and apartment complexes.
Kotkin said he and his crew gather information about bed bugs from more than a hundred sources. A staff of 11 at Apps Genius works seven days a week to pull and verify data from public health records and press releases.
The “Report Bed Bugs” tab on the app is built in for users to report their findings while traveling and the staff sorts through thousands of them daily.
But, as with any user-generated content, verification is nebulous. And even if a site has corrected the problem, the location will still pop up on the alert with a notation of how long ago the bed bug issue was reported.
The next version of the software will color-code the locations to note how long they’ve been on the site.
And in the event of false postings, “We have a mechanism that someone at the location can use to contact us and we’ll take it off,” Kotkin said.
The Bed Bug Alert isn’t the first database of reported findings. Various Facebook pages and longstanding websites such as bedbugregistry.com and bedbugreports.com also include lists of sightings searchable by city or hotel.
Apps Genius is also planning a bed bug app for BlackBerry and Droid devices.
Staff writer Shelia Poole contributed to this article.