I am delighted to report this news item from Patrick Meighan of the Nashua Telegraph in Nashua, New Hampshire. It’s a story about how Nashua city Health Officer Nelson Ortega and Deputy Health Officer Heidi Peek spent 4 and a half hours inspecting all 117 rooms in a rooming house in Nashua, and found 16 of them infested with bed bugs.
The inspection was prompted by tenants’ complaints to the health department. However, Ortega expected to–and found–that many more units were infested than the number of people who complained.
Complaints about bugs at 23-25 Temple St. prompted the inspection, Ortega said.
Given the tenant complaints his office received, Ortega said he expected the infestation to be even more widespread than what inspectors found.
“Sixteen is still a significant number,” Ortega said. “If they don’t hurry up and deal with it, it’s going to keep growing.”
He added, “the minute we left, they should be calling the pest companies.”
The building’s owner, 23-25 Temple Street Realty LLC, is expected to have exterminators come in as soon as possible, Ortega said. They’re required to spray not only the infected rooms, but also the adjacent rooms and the rooms directly above and below, he said.
Because the 16 rooms were scattered throughout, most of the building will have to be treated, Ortega said.
The owners also have 35 days to correct general maintenance violations, which range from the illegal use of extension cords and hotplates to unsanitary toilets and covers missing on wall outlets, Ortega said.
Health officials will do a follow-up inspection after the building owner has had time to spray for pests and correct the violations, he said.
I wish that all health officials were as wise to bed bugs, and as proactive as these.
I also wish every building owner (whether it’s a hotel, apartment building, rooming house, or whatever) would read this. All too often, people try to get away with treating only the units of people who notice and complain about bed bugs. And in such cases, they will often find bed bugs popping up again and again.
I am also glad to see this because it shows a case where people with bed bugs called a health department and got some action. Readers often tell us their landlords are not dealing with bed bugs, and they don’t know what to do. Or if their landlord is helping them, the problem is still hard to treat.
Well, even though your city health officer may not be as clued in about bed bugs as Nelson Ortega is, why not give them a call?
Cities and counties do not realize how many people have bed bugs unless you tell them. So please, consider googling your city or county health department and giving them a buzz.
And a reminder to tenants, landlords, and government officials alike, anywhere: take a hint from Nashua Deputy Health Officer Heidi Peek, who is quoted in the article as saying:
“The reason I really wanted to get in there, I had a hunch there were people who weren’t reporting (bedbugs) – which we found to be true.”
At least 50% of people bitten by bed bugs do not react to the bites, according to Michael Potter.
Many of these will have no idea they have them.
Many more will know they have them but fear being blamed and not report it.
Still others will simply put up with the situation (unbelieveable, yes, but we hear it time and again).
Do not assume people are bed bug-free simply because they say they are.
And certainly do not assume they are bed bug-free simply because they do not call a city information hotline.
Especially if calling a city information hotline is the least intuitive thing for them to do, as in the case of NYC tenants with bed bugs. Do you hear that, New York City HPD? If you want people in NYC to call a number to tell you they have bed bugs. You have to tell them to do it.