Waterbury, Connecticut has had a recent bed bug outbreak in a number of locations. Last week, we were told in the Republican-American online of these locations with bed bug infestations, which had been reported to the Health Dept.:
553 South Main St. (two apartments in a multi-unit building; all the rest of the following had at least one infested apartment in a multi-unit building):
42 Pine St. (the Wilby Apartments),
107 South Leonard St.,
182 West Main St.,
148 Grand St. (where the entire building was declared infested back in April), and
995 Bank St.
Also: the Salvation Army shelter.
A news report by Eric Parker of Eyewitness News 3 on Friday said that this week, two more apartment buildings were added to the list of bed bug infestations reported to the Waterbury Health Department: the Enterprise Apartments at 13 Cherry Ave., and an unnamed building “near Waterbury Green” (the Waterbury Republican named this as “two apartments at Plaza on the Green… 2 North Main Street”).
Let’s be completely realistic: these buildings that the Waterbury Health Department has been made aware of are likely just the tip of the iceberg. Single family homeowners, condo owners, hotels, and other businesses are unlikely to report their infestations. So are landlords of multi-unit buildings, and fearful tenants who may be wary of reporting their landlord.
The reports are spreading, and that has people at the Enterprise Apts worried.
The Health Department is not surprised that reports keep appearing. Parker reports (note, I transcribed his actual video report, since the transcription on the website differed from it):
Officials at the Health Dept say that when they get a few reports of bed bugs, they expect a few more. Because people who have the bed bugs at their house will travel around, and that spreads it. So they usually have several weeks of reports before they can finally kick the bed bugs for good.
Cookie Rosado, of the Enterprise Apartments was planning to move because of her bed bug infestation. Eyewitness News 3 just told us bed bugs were spread via people; why not reiterate here how easily bed bugs can be moved from one location to another, and how likely it is Cookie Rosado’s new building, too, will become infested.
The Health Department, Parker tells us, is going to “continue to follow the bed bugs as more reports come in.”
Cool! So are we, Health Department. The only difference is, we are a media outlet (yes, I know, it is a grandiose term for a blog. But we are trying to spread the bed bug news and information as best we can). You, however, are the Waterbury Health Department. You need to do more than assume that after a few weeks of reports in various locations, that your town will be able to “kick the bed bugs for good.”
It is true that bed bugs in one space (say a single apartment) can be gotten rid of in a few weeks. But we also know that most people do not recognize the problem right away. And then few people recognize it at all: it is commonplace for some residents in a building to report an infestation while others will have no idea. If they are not allergic, it may take ages to see the signs. Still others are fearful and simply live with or try to self-treat the problem. So while a small, isolated infestation can theoretically be gotten rid of in a few weeks, in most cases, the problem will continue spreading to others.
So not only will a few more weeks uncover many more infestations, most of them likely to be unreported to the Health Dept. You’re also likely to find that many of these cases drag on for months (or even years) because there’s one or two tenants reporting a problem, and several neighbors who have it but have no idea and so are not treated. That reason alone makes treating bed bugs in multi-unit buildings really difficult.
I can only hope that journalist Eric Parker misunderstood the Health Department officials’ line on bed bugs. Because Waterbury only needs to read some of the bed bug news from other cities in order to see that, yes, bed bugs will continue to spread. But they won’t be eliminated in time. They will only get worse and spread further. Unless drastic steps are taken by the city to halt their spread, and educate people about the problem.
What’s displayed in this report is either ignorance of the true nature and likely scope of the bed bug epidemic in Waterbury, or a fear of disclosing the truth to residents.
Either way, it’s a shame.
You can catch Eric Parker’s segment here.