Monday’s Daily Telegraph featured a long article on bed bugs in the UK. Overall it was a typical story of the spread of bed bugs in Britain, and coming as it does from a well-respected source, it is a good thing. I was, however, disappointed in some of the information provided.
First, the journalist Judith Woods says of some bed bug victims:
The lawyer got rid of her bed, both mattress and frame, which ideally anyone with an infestation should do.
Wrong! Tossing such items out is unnecessary, since a Pest Control Operator (PCO) can treat them. Moreover, throwing them away (even labeled and sealed) makes it very likely someone else will pick them up and use them. You’d be surprised how eager others are to bring them home, or sell them secondhand (beware the Car Boot Sales, my British friends). In so many cases, you cannot tell from looking at the items that they are infested. If you’re in a multi-unit building or an attached house, your neighbors may even take them, meaning they can later come back to you.
Similarly, Woods suggests,
Bed linen can be washed at the highest possible temperature – but [PCO Ben Knorton of Rentokil] advises throwing it out.
“I’ve seen sheets literally moving with the sheer number of bedbugs under them,” he says. “In that situation you really need to take drastic action.”
Well, if the bed is moving under the weight of bed bugs, perhaps that’s right. But washing on hot and drying on hot are a better idea in most cases. The above statement implies otherwise. I would only throw out sheets, or a bed and frame, if the PCO advised it. And then I would get them to help (with the mattress and frame) to ensure it was carefully done.
We’re also told of the same afflicted lawyer’s case,
Her room was then sealed and sprayed with insecticide three times over as many weeks.
Does this mean the room was sealed and left for three weeks, meaning no one was sleeping there? If so, the insecticide is not likely to work. Bed bugs need to be lured out to cross the poison and die.
Thanks to reader Fedupandparanoid, in the UK, who wrote me an email to alert me to this article and the issues mentioned above.
She also had this to say:
The article was nearly a full page on the Health on Monday page, and headlined ‘Don’t let the bedbugs bite,’ but I was very dissapointed at the tone of the article and take issue with some of the information contained in it. For some reason the journalist writing had called in Rentokil to check her house because she was so worried about the general rise in bedbugs. She didn’t appear to have any reason for suspecting bedbugs other than that there is a 500-fold increase in cases in London. Rentokil, who she called in, are at the very expensive end of the pest control market and they will be rubbing their hands in glee if they can charge good money to go in and inspect middle class people’s homes for no reason other than there is a general increase.
In fairness, the article did mention signs you can look for, like blood spots and fecal stains, bites in a row and did mention what a bedbug looks like, also the problems with hotels, but they seemed to miss an opportunity of really educating people. The journalist to her ‘great relief received a clean bill of health’ for her beds and although I wouldn’t wish bedbugs on anyone it would have carried more weight if she had actually had them or knew someone who had. There was nothing really about the terrible trauma and life disruption that people go through just a few jokey comments about what the neighbours would think.
Fedupandparanoid also said,
I just feel so annoyed that a paper like the Daily Telegraph – respected for it’s journalism – can make such a hash of a good opportunity. I realise journalists have to write articles that people want to read but there seemed no research and no substance to the article at all.
Yes. I agree with Fedup that we have come to expect more. At least the British press are covering the issue–getting people to talk about bed bugs is the first step.
In other news, in one of the few places that has gone beyond talking about bed bugs, Cincinnati emergency personnel are concerned about catching bed bugs when they go to help the city’s residents, ABC9 (WCPO.com) reports.
Firefighters, police, and health workers are encountering bed bugs in their work. And in the circumstances, where people are in danger, personnel don’t generally have time to worry about whether a place is infested before they go in.
Cincinnati Fire District Chief Ronald J. Texter says they’re working on a plan so crews won’t bring them back to the firehouse.
“The difficulty for us is that we can’t go into a house, survey it first, find out whether or not there’s bedbugs and then take precautions by putting on a Tyvex suit or something like that, like an exterminator would do.”
Texter said the department is concerned about the growing bedbug problem. The bugs are so small, sometimes you can’t see them.
“We’ve also had hospitals call and tell us that the patient, when they started treating them, they found bedbugs and they call us and let us know as a precaution that the patient had bedbugs,” Texter said.
This is good news: hospital staff are tuned in to the problem and the dangers of personnel exposed to it. The bad news is if patients are carrying bed bugs on their person, they must be suffering from very bad infestations.
If a firefighter walks into a home with bedbugs, they’re being encouraged to clean their equipment as soon as they return to the station.
Chief Texter admits that’s easier said than done.
“When you make 15 to 20 runs a day and you can’t stop everytime and take everything out, clean it, and put it all back and make sure there’s no bedbugs.”
The Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police says officers have similar concerns.
Both departments are working on a plan to deal with the problem.
The fire department is educating personnel in addition to hiring an exterminator.
“If we do have a problem with bedbugs, we already have a pest control operator under contract to treat the infestation.”
Cincinnati emergency personnel, like the Cincinnati health department, are being very proactive about bed bugs. That the police and fire departments are talking to pest control operators in advance of detecting an infestation, is a very good thing. Lots can be done–not only in terms of educating personnel about signs of bed bugs and what to do if one is exposed, but also in terms of developing a protocol for searching the firehouse, for example, or where to store clothing that may be exposed.
And make no mistake: bed bugs are spreading via the same routes everywhere else. The difference is, people in Cincinnati are not afraid to talk about it. It’s the first step to making things better.