BREMERTON – The USS Connecticut, one of the Navy’s most elite submarines, has suffered a bed bug infestation.
A Navy spokeswoman confirmed that efforts are being made to control the infestation aboard the ship moored at Kitsap-Bremerton Naval Base.
Marine entomologists found the insects in the perforated bulkheads between bunks on board the Seawolf-class submarine, which carries a crew of more than 100 men.
The Navy said the bed bugs were only recently discovered. But several family members of seafarers told the Kitsap Sun they believe the infestation continued last year.
Cmdr. Cindy Fields, spokeswoman for the Navy Pacific Fleet submarine force, said bed bugs were not reported until December and that Navy entomologists did not find them on board until February 19. Inspections for bed bugs on the boat have continued daily since then, Fields said.
When the bed bugs were reported in December, Fields said entomologists at Naval Hospital Bremerton “found no evidence of bed bugs on more than one occasion”.
“Marine criteria for handling submarines or ships require the presence of bed bugs to establish existence,” she said.
But the sailors’ families told the Kitsap Sun that efforts to rid the boat of bud bugs have not yet been successful. When bed bug treatment began, crew members slept intermittently in vehicles outside the submarine until a temporary structure was opened near the Connecticut berth, a family said. They also feared seafarers who need to sleep on board could bring bed bugs home to their families.
Fields confirmed that seafarers were temporarily moored while their sleeping areas on board the boat were chemically disinfected. She said that as soon as the boat was “restored after treatment and assessment” by both the command of the submarine and the assigned entomologists, the sailors were brought back on board.
The Navy searched every berth on board, removed the sheets and “thoroughly inspected all mattress seams and folds”. Bed linen, privacy curtains and clothes on board are washed and dried because, according to Fields, bed bugs cannot withstand the temperatures in dryers. Berths are also “thoroughly cleaned,” she said.
The Navy is replacing the mattresses wherever bed bugs have been found, she said. In areas they weren’t in, the Navy treats all mattresses with a bed bug insecticide.
“The crew were briefed on the methods used by bed bugs to migrate from place to place and key techniques to prevent them from spreading from the ship to their home,” Fields said.
Bed bug bites can cause a serious allergic reaction in some cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the allergic reaction is not classified as dangerous, “it may require medical treatment,” according to the CDC.
Fields said no sailor had “had a significant skin reaction to the insects.”
“The Navy takes the safety and health of seafarers and their families very seriously,” she said.
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The USS Connecticut is one of two Seawolf-class submarines based in Bremerton. The submarine, like its sister boat, the USS Seawolf, will soon join the USS Jimmy Carter when a new pier opens at Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base. Then all three Seawolf-class submarines will be stationed in Submarine Development Squadron 5 in Bangor.
Josh Farley is a reporter covering the military for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-9227, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @joshfarley.