The Chronicle Herald’s Jeffrey Simpson told the story Friday of Clyde Burton, a Halifax man living with bed bugs for three months in his Halifax apartment:
He has reported the problem repeatedly to the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority, which has three times sent pest control companies to try ridding his apartment of the blood-sucking insects, he said.
Mr. Burton, who’s disabled after having brain surgery three decades ago, couldn’t handle the chemicals. After treatment is applied he’s supposed to avoid cleaning anything for about a week so he doesn’t wash away the pesticide. Tenants are usually advised to vacate their homes for four hours during the spraying process, but he stayed overnight at his pastor’s home one time and the Salvation Army’s Booth Centre another because he couldn’t stand the smell.
His disability means that he needs adequate sleep but the bugs have awakened him several times a week in the middle of the night.
“It is infested from the top floor down,” he said of his building, Gordon B. Isnor Manor. “I don’t care who tells you what. I live here and I’m seeing the proof in the pudding.”
There are alternative treatments available (steam, dusts) and in my opinion, these should be offered to tenants with medical concerns that make pesticides a bad idea. If thermal methods are available in Halifax, they can be very effective.
In a multi-unit building, all neighboring units (above, below, all sides) must be inspected when a tenant complains of bed bug bites or sees bed bugs. (Boston’s city policy is that all adjacent units must be treated, even if no signs are found, and we think this is a good protocol.)
If a tenant has had three treatments and bed bugs persist, I would suspect the neighbors have bed bugs. It’s possible that treatment protocols, insufficient prep, or reinfestation are to blame, but neighbors would be my first guess.
Kristen Tynes of the Community Services Department told the Chronicle Herald that
… there have been 40-50 public housing apartments with bedbugs out of 715 units at five of its buildings: Alderney, Nantucket, Sunrise Manor, Gordon B. Isnor [Manor] and Ahern Manor.
That’s an average of 8-10 infested apartments in each of five buildings. It would be interesting to know what their policy is on searching and treating infested units. In other words, did these 40-50 affected tenants all report their own problems, or is there a system of inspections in place, and were some infestations discovered in this way?
As Tynes notes in the article, residents bringing infested items in can spread the problem. But bed bugs spread in buildings even when tenants do not bring infested goods in. Coordinated inspections and treatment can help minimize this.
Halifax has serious bed bug issues. Two years ago (11/2006), we were told that Orkin had treated 1000-1500 residences in Halifax in that year. Imagine what the combined total of residences treated by all pest control companies was that year in Halifax.
Imagine what it was in 2008, since bed bugs are continuing to get worse.
You can read Simpson’s full article here.