NEW PORT RICHEY — Morton Plant North Bay Hospital's emergency room was cordoned off and was being sterilized Thursday afternoon after bed bugs were found hours earlier.
Hospital spokeswoman Beth Hardy said a patient who came in Thursday morning was carrying them. When hospital staff found the bugs, they immediately shut down the emergency room and moved patients to a "flex" unit on the first floor, usually used for overflow patients.
The hospital stopped accepting ambulances, but patients who came in voluntarily were treated in the flex unit, she said. The bed bugs were not believed to be in any other parts of the hospital.
Hardy said only part of the emergency room — the patient room area — was affected. Seven patients were evacuated from the room after the bed bugs were discovered. She said hospital staff was monitoring those patients but did not expect any more cases.
"The advice to patients would be, obviously, you do want to be careful and you do want to check yourself," Hardy said. "But the response was prompt and it was isolated, and I feel like things should be okay."
An independent contractor has screened the emergency room and started sterilizing, which usually involves a heat treatment.
"We're prepared for this," she said. "We have processes in place for this."
Bed bugs are prone to dwellings where turnover is frequent, according to the Mayo Clinic website. They show up in hotels, dormitories and hospitals.
The website says bed bug bites are similar to most other insect bites and usually pose a risk only to people who are allergic.
Hardy expected the hospital to be back to normal and accepting ambulances Thursday evening.