Jersey City Fire Dept. sets up “decontamination tent” outside building with bed bugs

by nobugsonme on July 31, 2008 · 14 comments

in bed bugs, jersey city, new jersey

I really don’t know what to make of this article in Tuesday’s Jersey Journal.

Some Hudson County Sheriff’s officers were answering a domestic violence call in Jersey City, and encountered bed bugs in the home. (The article claims the officers were bitten by bed bugs upon entering the home.)

What happens next is quite astonishing:

Ten residents of the building – at Wilkinson and Ocean avenues – as well as five sheriff’s officers were quarantined in the two-and-a-half story building while fire officials brought people out to scrub them down in a special shower set up at the scene.

Two men were taken out of the building in handcuffs shortly before noon, even as officers dressed in full hazmat gear with oxygen masks went into the home.

Bed bugs will bite people who enter the home, and may hitch rides out. Donning protective clothing is not a bad idea for avoiding bed bug bites and hitchhiking bugs, if officers are entering a home with an infestation.

Bed bugs do spread.

However, I really do not understand why a “special shower” was necessary, or why the photo accompanying this article show a fully-clothed woman and child being sprayed by something. (Click here to see the photo enlarged.) They are obviously in distress. And I do not see how this is necessary.

If it is necessary to ensure someone’s body is bed bug-free, they could be asked to remove clothing and take a shower– a simple shower with soap and water, and a clean change of clothing, is all that should be needed. (It will, of course, last only until the person re-enters the infested home.)

But spraying them down like they’ve been exposed to toxic chemicals is extreme and inhumane. And probably pointless.

If someone has a bed bug inside his or her pants, I don’t think spraying someone with their clothes on is the best way to kill it.

So the whole experience was pointlessly humiliating. There’s no need to up the stigma of having bed bugs.

I hope officials in Jersey City will do everything they can to make sure people don’t have to live with bed bugs.

Although the officers may have been spared the trouble of bringing bed bugs home, the families in this building were presumably sent back home to live with bed bugs that night. I really hope they’re getting the help they need to get rid of this problem.

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1 buggyinsocal July 31, 2008 at 2:04 pm

This is one of the most egregious examples I’ve seen of the ways that the myth that bedbugs are somehow the fault of tenants. (Yes, we know that clutter can give bed bugs more places to hide once a dwelling has them, but neither clutter nor dirt *attracts* bed bugs).

I think any of us who’ve battled bed bugs can attest that once you know how hard they are to get rid of, the thought of getting bugs can cause some anxiety, but this is clearly over the line of anxiety into downright ridiculous and possibly harassing.

The most frustrating part of this is that lack of sufficient knowledge about bed bugs and how they act led to this unnecessary trauma for the people who lived in this building.

Stigma about bed bugs is such a big part of the problem in that too often people who figure out that they have them are unwilling to report them or ask landlords for help for fear that they’ll be treated like pariahs, and when municipal entities react like this, people become even less likely to seek timely help.

2 AVM July 31, 2008 at 3:13 pm

I strongly disagree. People are certainly responsible for the re-emergence of bed bugs. They were once eradicated or driven underground with the advent of DDT. It is widely believed that they started to prey on fowl when their human hosts were taken away, and they were soon found in the poultry industry. They hitched a ride on poultry workers, many of whom are immigrants and poor, and the rest is recent history. Because DDT is now outlawed, there is nothing that is as effective in combating bedbugs in the human population. Bring back DDT!!!

3 James Buggles July 31, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Regarding this story, the article is very short. I don’t think we know enough information.

Generally speaking, there is plenty of blame for everyone — slumlords, tenants, governments, etc.

Some tenants are unfazed by their bed bugs and do nothing about them whereas others knowingly take stupid risks like dumpster diving. And some people don’t regularly wash their clothes. So while bed bugs can thrive anywhere, a slovenly tenant can cause or exacerbate the problem.

4 July 31, 2008 at 6:41 pm

IMO, it sounds like somebody with a brain has finally taken charge in N.J. and is following an effective course. People should not view a proper clearing process as humiliation, when those doing the decon jobs are first-responders and possibly friends/relatives.
When compared to the idiotic procedures now underway in San Francisco, New Jersey should receive a presidential medal of honor. After weeks of trying to clear out my bug-infested hotel room, even as uninformed boobs enter it in my absence to coat everything with ineffective pyrethrins, my constant stinging bites tell me only only one thing — Way to go, N.J!

5 Doug Summers MS July 31, 2008 at 7:59 pm

What you see depicted in the photograph is a standard HAZMAT response for chemical / biological contamination.

The Decon shower would be an effective tactic for asbestos, pesticide or chemical exposure, but it is obviously an inappropriate response for bed bugs.

The public safety officials have simply applied the wrong protocol in this instance. I suspect they will handle the situation differently in the future.

I also question the claim that law enforcement was immediately bitten by bed bugs on entry into the building.

6 paulaw0919 July 31, 2008 at 8:38 pm

According to law don’t they say that bed bugs are not a health risk…just an annoyance issue?? If this is true, then why the hose and trauma set to these people.

7 Bugologist July 31, 2008 at 11:19 pm

I’m officially so tired of the DDT argument. I’d say it’s not going to solve anything but a broken record would be an understatement.

Also, the anonymous post about way to go NJ is ridiculous. Yeah way to go Jersey City on hosing people down when the bugs would just cling on to the clothing and go no where. You think that with all the experts up here in the NY/NJ area, someone would have gotten on a phone and asked what do to.

8 nobugsonme July 31, 2008 at 11:49 pm

@Anonymous– Doug and Bugologist are right. This is not a way to get bed bugs off of people. If your landlord hosed you down, in your clothes, as you exited your building, it would neither get rid of your bed bugs, nor prevent you carrying them inside the same clothing.

At best, the Jersey City Fire Dept. was being “creative,” and making a hash of things. They were probably panicking– after all, New Rochelle, NY is just up the road, and their police cars and station jails were just treated for bed bugs. Yes–they are right to take steps and be concerned. But they completely took the WRONG steps.

@AVM–like Bugologist, I am tired of the call to bring back DDT. Do your research. Anyone who’s been reading up on this issue would realize that it’s not a silver bullet, and even if it were, it won’t happen. It’s complex. And we’ve talked about it many times before.

As to whether other pesticides might be brought back and/or relabeled for bed bugs, that’s another story.

9 Barelyliving August 1, 2008 at 2:10 pm

I was interested to read the “Russian Miracle” thread. It seems that Dursban was made illegal just as the bed bug numbers were taking off. Was this ever used on bed bugs here?

10 nobugsonme August 1, 2008 at 2:38 pm

Barelyliving is referring to this thread, I think.

I can’t answer that. Maybe some of the pros can. (You might get a faster answer if you start a thread in the forums entitled “Dursban”).

11 hopelessnomo August 4, 2008 at 1:18 am

There was a follow-up article the next day (Wed) with more details.

12 nobugsonme August 4, 2008 at 9:36 pm

Thanks, ‘nomo! See, we NEED you around here. You can’t retire. 🙂

13 hopelessnomo August 5, 2008 at 10:08 am

Thanks, Nobugs, you are sweet.

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