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NYC Health Department headquarters is bugged - with ones that crawl

By Chris Francescani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has a problem -- and it sounds more like one for which it might issue a citation than find in its own backyard.

The department said on Friday that its new $316 million headquarters in the borough of Queens has been infested with bed bugs.

Inspectors have "found a group of bed bugs living in one area of one floor of our department's Long Island City building," the Health Department said in a statement.

"We have already taken steps to address the problem, including conducting additional inspections, vacuuming, steam-cleaning and applying small amounts of pesticide."

The New York Daily News reported late Thursday that staffers at the Health Department were "freaked out" after several weeks of bed bug sightings.

The vampiric insects are difficult to eradicate, and areas where they are spotted require extensive - and expensive - fumigation to completely get rid of them.

"Employees were given copies of the department's own bed bug information pamphlet on Wednesday and told to declutter their desks and put their belongings in plastic bags," an unnamed source told the newspaper.

Bed bugs were common throughout most of the 20th century, but were believed to have been all but eradicated from the United States by 1995. But they have made a dramatic resurgence.

More than 13,000 bedbug complaints were registered with the city in fiscal year 2011, according to a spokesman for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

(Editing by Leslie Adler)

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