Skin-festation of the year:
Bed Bugs in "Ocean's 13" and "Bug"

In the latest installment of the “Ocean’s” series, George Clooney and his band of gangsta pranksters take revenge on a hotel mogul.  One of their tricks is to sabotage the stay of a snooty travel critic.  They sneakily coat the fellow’s hotel bed with bed bugs.  The next day, the critic is covered head to toe with itchy red bites and welts.  There goes the five star review.

The following paragraph contains spoilers about the film, “Bug.”  Rent it quick before you read on!

In the dark psychological thriller, “Bug,” Ashley Judd hooks up with an odd fellow convinced that bed bugs have invaded her home.  In their attempts to eradicate the alleged insect invasion, Judd and her man lose their fragile sanity.  Destroying themselves and the shack in a blazing inferno may end up as the new Webster’s definition of “overkill.”  

In reality, bed bugs cause both physical and emotional distress.  Outbreaks in NYC caused an understandable panic. Carried into homes and hotel rooms, they typically do not live in mattresses.  Usually, the tiny pests hide in walls and crevices, coming out to feed nightly on sleeping humans, causing characteristic bites.  While extensive swollen spots can occur, the usual pattern is a smaller group of bites in a row or line.  The welting is an allergic reaction, so not every bedmate may end up with an itchy rash. 

Unlike their creepy cousins scabies, bed bugs do not remain on the skin and so are not contagious. Treating the reaction usually involves prescription strength cortisone creams, but exterminators are needed to insure the bedroom is no longer a cafeteria for critters. Setting the entire domicile aflame may make for a dramatic movie ending, but shouldn’t be necessary to become bed bug free. 

Runner-up, Skin-festation:
While not making an appearance on movie screens in 2007, a pesky superbug called MRSA (short for Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus) was likely infecting the skin of some audience members during any given movie showing this year. This strain of staph bacteria has developed resistance to certain existing antibiotics and can rarely spread to internal organs. Hand washing and cleaning up after gym workouts can limit its spread. Prompt attention by a physician for tender boils or spreading sores can also tackle it. Sounds like a horror movie? Watch for it onscreen (or even in the lobby!)

© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.