Bed bugs continue to spread in Edmonton.
The Toronto Sun has a new story today about Edmonton’s health inspectors, whose work puts them in danger of bringing bed bugs home. Health inspectors are charged with inspecting homes in response to bed bug complaints:
“I don’t think you’ll find an inspector who works here who doesn’t have a method of shedding their clothes before they go home,” says Sandra Hamilton with Alberta Health Services.
“If I go and look at somebody’s bed and find bedbugs in there, there’s a pretty good likelihood that one has dropped into the hem of my pants. So when I walk inside my front door, I take off my pants and anything else I happen to be wearing and it all goes straight into the wash.”
She never sits down while doing an inspection. In the winter, Hamilton stores her heavy coat in her unheated garage in order to freeze any stowaways.
“It’s cold getting dressed in the morning,” she says with a laugh, “but it’s better than having bedbugs in my house.”
Note that this is not recommended. Even in Edmonton, the unheated garage probably needs more time than an overnight freeze to kill bed bugs.
Dr. Michael Potter notes (in this PCT article) that
Temperatures below 0°F (-18 C) for one to two weeks are generally believed to be needed to reliably kill all life stages.
And Dr. Louis Sorkin experimented with freezing bed bugs, and said
“I had them in a freezer at -29dF (-34 C) for 4 hours and some 1st instars lived. But [in] 5 days they also died.”
(Lou is cited in our FAQ on freezing bed bugs.)
Note: news from the Bed Bug Summit is that the Packtite will soon be available in Canada, and this is good news, since it offers a reliable way to kill bed bugs in coats and other exposed items.
Edmonton has a bed bug committee which is trying to determine how extensive the city’s bed bug problems are. It is going to ask the city’s landlords to tell them. According to the CBC,
Edmonton landlords will receive a questionnaire about bedbugs and will be asked if their buildings have had bedbugs and how common they are.
Using the data from the survey, the city will then determine if the problem is getting out of hand.
According to Sandra Hamilton of Alberta Public Health, interviewed in this CBC video, the 1-2 page survey will ask landlords “how many suites they have and how many have had bed bugs.”
I am concerned about whether Edmonton landlords will self-report truthfully about the numbers of infested units they have experienced.
Maybe I am just a cynical New Yorker, but I would expect landlords to downplay the numbers.
When trying to determine “magnitude and adverse effects” of bed bugs in Toronto back in 2003 Steven W. Hwang et. al. reviewed logs of phone calls to public health, surveyed all Toronto pest control operators, and interviewed the director or supervisor of every Toronto homeless shelter (see Bed Bug Infestations in an Urban Environment).
That is certainly not the only workable method, but it seems like it avoids asking landlords to self-report conditions they may be reluctant to disclose.
Still, as Sandra Hamilton notes in the CBC video, “We need to be able to go to the Provincial government and tell them, ‘This is how bad the problem is.’ So we need to have something we can measure.”
This data has the potential to be quite valuable and I am really glad Edmonton’s bed bug committee is taking this on.