Now we’re getting somewhere.
For years, when they mentioned bed bugs at all, which was rarely, the press was talking about people with bed bug infestations needing to do some laundry, throw out a mattress, maybe move. (All insufficient and/or not helpful, as we know.)
Some news outlets are still at this level. Their refrain: it’s a nuisance: spray the college dorm once, send the kids to do laundry, no problem. (Wrong!) Be glad you don’t live in a shelter, where this is such a problem. The tone of these recent articles is not much of an improvement over 2003’s example: “Those silly hipsters in Greenpoint: it looks like trash-picking mattresses can lead to pesky problems.”
Just weeks ago, we started seeing reports that took it to the next level: admitting things are getting out of hand in isolated places (like residential apartments for seniors in Boston, Single Room Occupancy apartments in NYC, low-income housing, and so on). Those media outlets that have made it to this level are pointing out that it’s more than a nuisance. That tossing furniture is spreading the problem, and that the poor and moderate income citizens can’t afford this experience (who can?)
And now, the Toronto Star has taken it to another level:
Pest control experts predict bedbugs are their new cash cow, and that within five years, they will be more common than mice, roaches and carpenter ants.
You have to read on, though, and read between the lines to see that eradicating bed bugs is nowhere near as easy as eradicating roaches, mice, and rats.
The Star does note that the poorest are the hardest hit (as they are when any force of nature or man-made disaster hits). But the words above are astounding: what person has not once had roaches, mice or ants invade a dwelling? (Many, of course, have had more than one of these, or had one again and again.) House-holder, rich, famous?
The article spells this out: In 2003 1/2 of Toronto bed bug victims were householders; only 1/4 were in apartments.
It goes on,
To rid a home costs between $300 and $650 for the first treatment, with $65 a month for re-treatments until the pests have been eradicated. Apartments are less expensive, costing between $200 and $300 but treating them there is more difficult.
One suite in an building can spray their space diligently, vacuum their mattress daily, cover belongings in plastic, steam-clean the upholstery, dryclean clothes and replace bedding. But if the suite next door has neither the time nor the finances to do so, the space will be re-infested within days. It’s a problem Dancyger knows too well. In April his apartment was sprayed. He was free of the bugs for only two days before they came creeping back.
The Star also does a nice job of outlining the lack of government response, one we’re seeing elsewhere too:
Toronto Public Health won’t say there’s a problem.
Except for City Assemblywoman Gale Brewer, New York City officials are not taking on board their responsibilities. This will be a huge problem and is growing daily. And yet at a recent City Council Hearing on bed bugs in NYC, another city official from the Dept. of Consumer Affairs argued that poor people needed the right to buy reconditioned (=used) mattresses (to save a whopping $50).
That’s ignorance of what this pest can do to the child sleeping on that mattress, and her family, her neighbors, landlord, and so on. This can spread from one bed to a whole neighborhood: from bed to subway station bench to workplace to school, and then home with anyone who uses any of those. These sound like paranoid thoughts, but at the Bedbugger yahoo group, we’ve heard multiple stories of people who moved from their homes with the utmost care, taking every precaution, going so far as to ditch virtually all their belongings, and nevertheless, somehow, “moved” their problem with them. They spread easily.
Would a public official who knew the threat he was dealing with say such a thing? No. And there are plenty of entomologists and pest control operators who can tell us how bad this is, let alone the sufferers. We know. Listen to us.
Nice work, Toronto Star: you raised the bar on bed bug stories in the news. I hope we see more reports that are designed to wake people up.
And I want to hear more about the middle class and upper-middle class sufferers. We know they’re out there, but they’re ashamed (just like the poor people). I know this is especially bad in SROs, shelters, low-income housing, but until we’re seeing rich people on Fox news talking about how they had to throw away their prized posessions and live like monks, sitting on metal chairs and sleeping on air mattresses– until we see rich people crying because they unwittingly spread bedbugs to a sick elderly parent, who is really suffering– until then, some people are going to be stuck on the “it’s just a problem for the poor” idea. And they are so wrong.