Cincinnati fights bed bugs, declares some success

by nobugsonme on January 10, 2008 · 6 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs and the elderly, bed bugs in apartments, bed bugs in low-income housing, cincinnati, how to get rid of bed bugs, laundry, ohio

Cincinnati held a meeting yesterday about bed bugs. Channel 9 (ABC) said yesterday:

The Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority will show the Health, Environment and Education Committee a presentation on the pests.

Officials said bed bugs are a big problem in the city’s public housing, which is overseen by the Housing Authority.

According to Channel 12, Cincinnati politicians are claiming some success against bed bugs:

The health department says it received 737 bedbug complaints last year, more than 300 in September and October alone. Since then, the numbers have gone down.

Dale Grigsby, Cincinnati Health Department: “It appears as though at least what we’ve been doing for the last 6 months has been effective, but I don’t want to say conclusively until we’ve seen some more data.”

The message not to re-use discarded mattresses and couches may be sinking in. But housing advocates say the bedbug problem is here to stay for at least a while longer.

Surely the work Cincinnati is doing is having an effect.

However, I would not use statistics based on complaints during the last two months as a barometer. It’s my sense that people taking action on their bed bug issues goes down between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. My sense is that people are celebrating and preparing to celebrate. Money and time are going to other things, and they do not want to deal with problems–especially one they may think they can deal with a bit later. I don’t think that –based on fewer calls to the city about bed bugs in November and December–one can declare any improvement just yet. It really is premature.

And a few months isn’t really long enough to assume those treated homes are really bed bug-free. Bed bugs are notoriously tenacious. Even though Cincinnati was helping people discard furniture carefully, and providing information, there is no reason to think existing bed bug cases have been abated and that they have not spread further. It can take months for people who were treated to realize their bed bugs are not actually gone, yet. Rick Cooper helpfully suggests that people wait 55 days after last seeing a bed bug or suffering a bite to declare themselves bed bug free. My own sense is that in a multi-unit building with multiple infestations–and especially possibly undiagnosed and untreated ones–you aren’t really sure the problem is gone for some time after that.

The article also contained a strange estimate of how many would suffer bed bugs:

Charles Tassell, Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association: “It’s going to be one in seven houses by the year 2008 that will be infected. We’re at 2008 and we’re not at that number yet, but we’re going to see it continue to grow.”

On the video, Tassell attributes his estimate that 1 in 7 houses would have bed bugs by 2008 to unnamed “professionals”. I do not recall hearing this statistic before, and I don’t know if it refers to Cincinnati alone or some larger region. I Also assume Tassell means “homes” in particular, and “homes,” not houses. Perhaps a reader will know the source of this statistic.

The Local 12 article did not give any real basis for thinking things were either that bad, or that improved. We can consider the one actual case mentioned in the article:

Joyce Jones has the bites to prove it. When bedbugs showed up in her apartment last fall she asked for help.

Joyce Jones, Stanley Rowe Apartments: “I did everything…I called in a work order. They come in and I tell you what they do. They do this here and say we don’t see nothing.”

Joyce is one of many residents of Stanley Rowe Apartments that are fighting bedbugs. Because of complaints, city council demanded answers from the Metropolitan Housing Authority and health department. CMHA says it’s doing the best it can. The health department says bedbug education programs seem to making headway.

Reading this tells you little. Watch the video. It’s hard to tell exactly what Joyce Jones’s housing inspector did, but her implication is that the inspection was cursory and this is a familiar story to our readers. Some readers tell us they have PCOs, and in some cases housing inspectors, who do very limited “inspections.” While we know bed bugs can live in the baseboards or other places in the room, and in furniture besides beds, some inspections still don’t go beyond looking under the sheets and mattress, and if they do not find a live bed bug, the inspection is over. (Some PCOs and inspectors, readers tell us, don’t inspect at all.) There have been isolated reports from people in NYC of HPD inspectors unwilling to come into apartments after people filed bed bug complaints. Of course, that is clearly not HPD policy and any person making this accusation simply must pursue the matter further with HPD.

Local 12 says Jones is simply using extra bleach in the laundry until someone comes to help. Since Jones lives in the same bed bug-beleaguered high-rise senior apartment building as Samuel Blackmon, the man shown in this harrowing video, where his “apartment that was treated a month ago” was not surprisingly still literally crawling with bed bugs. (The full story was not clear, but that video implied Blackmon’s apartment may have been treated just once, as of October, and that a month had elapsed with nothing more being done.) I would hope inspections in every unit of the building would be very extensive indeed, and that treatments are much more aggressive and regular.

I appreciate the steps Cincinnati has taken, but I would guess they still have a long way to go in fighting bed bugs.  We have not heard anything about monetary assistance for tenants, landlords, and homeowners who need help both preparing for treatment and for covering costs of treatments themselves. 

I hope they will add such assistance to current programs of public education and refuse removal, and make sure everyone is getting proper, thorough inspections and treatment–until their bed bugs are truly gone.

View the brief Channel 9 article by Alyssa Bunn here.

View Local 12’s article here.

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1 paulaw0919 January 10, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Saying it’s 1 out of 7 families having bed bugs in that area only..how long before it reaches that number by me? Having a family with small children there is no way to take all the precautions needed when coming home from school, doctors, dentists, other peoples homes unless you totally isolate your family from the outside world. That’s crazy. When the hell is the government going to recognize this and take action.
I’ve always been the cleanest person ever and we had these bugs so badly and spread throughout our home, that after 6 treatments we ended up Vikaning the house and vehicles. I have in the past before I knew we were infested have had family and friends here, exchanged baby clothes etc. How am I supposed to take my three toddlers to a friends house now when after all the stuff we had exchanged over time, she probably has the damn bugs. I’ve explained but she doesn’t want to hear about it.
I guess she’ll be calling when her infestation gets so large that it becomes noticeable.
All I can say is that I was never a clutter person, clean as ever, had a beautifully decorated home. Now after a bed bug infestation we have almost no furniture or anything in the house, kids barely any toys, very little clothing and after adding up expenses and losses due to this event we are in the whole $35,000. This is for a single family home mind you. Yes this was truly a catastrophic experience for us. If it were just me and my husband we would most likely have some sort of new living room and family room furnishings by now. But with small children starting school soon I would die if we had to rid another costly set due to re infestation in 6 months.
There’s families still suffering from the floods years ago, what makes me think that something will be done about this epidemic any time soon. Here’s to praying.

2 nobugsonme January 10, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Paula,

I don’t think you read the “1 in 7” comment carefully. It’s very confusing, so that’s not your fault. The man cited in the article said, “we are not there yet.” He also did not name the professional who made this prediction (that this 1 in 7 number would be reached by 2008), so I would not put much stock in it.

In other words, it has not happened, yet, anywhere in North America. Far from it.

I am the first person to stress that bed bugs are indeed spreading, but it is important to keep it in perspective. It appears to be far, far less frequent, even in a city like Cincinnati, than 1 in 7.

I would love to know where that number came from, but from what I gather, it was someone’s prediction, and has not come to pass.

Also, look at hopelessnomo’s post from the other day about the rise and fall and rise again of bed bugs in the UK. What we can gather from the few statistics available is that bed bug populations were high in the UK around 1985/6. They do not seem to have stayed high, but appear to have cycled down and up again.

The nightmare scenario–“everyone has bed bugs!” does not seem to have ever been the case (before DDT cleaned them up in the 1950s). And while in present company we might feel that bed bugs are really common, they still are not.

We must keep perspective and not panic. It sounds like your bed bugs are gone and I hope you will find some peace now, much deserved.

3 Damn December 28, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Well Its December 2008 and bed bugs are everywhere in cincinnati. i have them, they’re on the buses, in businesses, in theaters, in hospitals and even crawling out of the person standing in front of me at the grocery stores coat. its an epidemic and something needs to be done about it. new people get them everyday so whats the ratio to that one? Cincinnati Isn’t Winning Shit! they’re taking over cincinnati, watch what happens in 5 years.

4 nobugs December 29, 2008 at 4:07 am

Damn,

This more recent post is in line with your thoughts here.

5 Bugging Out in Cincy March 23, 2009 at 10:14 am

Yup. I am pretty certain my son picked them up at school. So, if I can manage to get rid of them, I get to look foreward to obsessive rituals of keeping them away?? Stripping down as soon as ds returns from school- putting on “sterile” clothes?
I work in people’s homes, and am temporarily *I hope only temporarily* out of work- my own Mom told me, lovingly, to stay away until they are gone.
Who ever thought I could cry so much over stupid tiny bugs????? They are everywhere in this city.

6 nobugsonme March 24, 2009 at 12:12 am

Bugging Out,

I think you can do some things to avoid them, but there’s a limit. A lot can be said for learning how to search for them so they can be detected quickly. Educating others on detection and prevention– like the folks at school– may also go a long way.

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