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.