Bowling Green Towers: another infestation in elderly and disabled housing

by nobugsonme on February 5, 2008 · 1 comment

in bed bug epidemic, bed bugs, bed bugs in low-income housing, how to get rid of bed bugs, kentucky, landlords and tenants, ohio, spread of bed bugs

Jim Gaines Reports for the Bowling Green Daily News (Bowling Green, Kentucky) that

A few of the roughly 200 residents in Bowling Green Towers at 1149 College St. have had restless nights due to a pesky problem. Several apartment-dwellers have reported an infestation of bedbugs – but health officials say trouble is being squashed before it spreads.

Barry Turner of the Barren River District Health Department said his office has gotten a few recent calls from Towers residents, so he called property manager Jennifer Mitchell, who gave him the impression that it wasn’t widespread. She told him managers were dealing with it and had contacted an exterminator, Turner said.

“We haven’t dispatched anybody over there, and probably don’t plan to,” he said.

(Well, as long as they said they were dealing with it.)

This is another situation of bed bugs spreading in housing for the elderly and disabled. Remember Halcyon House in Denver? The Hillrise Apartment Building in Cincinnati? Warren Towers in Moline, Illinois? The Phyllis Wheatley YWCA in Washington, DC?

Like Halcyon House, Bowling Green Towers is privately-owned and subsidized by HUD:

The towers are privately owned by Germantown, Tenn.-based TESCO Properties, but rents for the elderly and disabled residents are subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD exercises some oversight through that financial relationship.

Since the property manager has told the health department that the problem is not widespread, we might ask how this was determined.

A spokesperson for HUD’s Louisville office said the agency contacted the Towers’ management Friday after learning of the problem from media inquiries. Building managers said the infestation was limited to four units, the HUD spokesperson said. HUD was told that an exterminator had been called and that employees were inspecting all the apartments one at a time, looking for any more problems.

It is not clear to me whether this means that employees of the Towers, or employees of the exterminator hired by the Towers, were doing these inspections, but it does sound like the former. If this is true, it is worrisome. We’re told by pest control operators how difficult visual inspections of properties for bed bugs can be, even for experienced PCOs. Employees of the building are very unlikely to be trained to spot all but the most advanced infestations.

A bit of sleuthing would not go amiss. Are the infested units physically connected (next door, above one another)? If the four infested units are all attached, then perhaps they and other adjacent units could be treated, and that may be it.

If the four units are not attached, then further investigation is worthwhile. I would then investigate whether there were any connections between these that can be traced. Are the residents with infestations friends who visit one another? Does a particular staff member assist those residents? Do they go for weekly outings using a particular car service?

That may all seem like an exhausting process. What I would not do, however, is assume that four non-attached units just happened to become infested with bed bugs simultaneously (if this appears to be the case). Bed bugs spread, and it is likely such cases would be related.

In any case, it is likely others have bed bugs too, but do not notice. (If they do not react to bed bug bites, they can have bed bugs and not know it.) It would be worth trying to trace a trail of some kind between the infested units, and trying to figure out what other units may have been exposed.

Detecting bed bugs can be really tricky for anyone, and elderly and disabled people can be at a disadvantage in many cases, due to sight and mobility limitations. They need all the help they can get to avoid having to suffer from this problem.

Let’s hope the Bowling Green Towers and the Barren River District Health Department take this seriously–clearing it up quickly and avoiding further infestations.

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