A Trentonian headline announced Monday, “Trenton judge clears courtroom after man’s clothes drip bedbugs”:
TRENTON — A visitor infested with bedbugs forced the evacuation of a city courtroom Monday and prompted officials to seal off the room and call in an exterminator.
“The guy literally had bedbugs falling off of his clothing,” a court employee said after the victim was escorted out of Trenton’s combination police and courts building.
“He sat in court for more than three hours, and a lot of people wanted court to shut down. Many others wanted the guy removed, but nothing happened. And they finally got the guy to leave at about 12 noon. But by then, there’s no way of knowing how many bedbugs fell off of him. It’s scary,” the court worker said.
Scary is right — if the report is accurate, that sounds like a lot of bed bugs.
If bed bugs truly were “literally… falling off” this court visitor, then there would surely be some present in the courtroom after it was evacuated, no? Rather than “falling off,” they need only to have walked away.
Top city health officer Joseph Rubino said an inspection of the courtroom after the victim’s removal “found no visible signs of bedbugs,” but he added that with people removed, there isn’t much for a bedbug to latch onto in the empty room.
But bed bugs don’t actually “latch onto” people.
And surely there were places they could hide. After three hours had passed, some may have simply slinked off into a corner to hide under a cushion, in someone’s bag, or in a baseboard crack.
Rubino said city court officials were told to have an exterminator check out the room to make sure it’s bedbug free before holding court in it again.
If by “check out” they mean “spend hours searching carefully,” this might work out.
But I worry. I’m worried about the man’s condition, and about how he will ever get rid of this problem.
And I’m worried about those who come in contact with him.
Courtroom employees said Health & Human Services Inspector Mike Ingram went to the bug man’s house and discovered a serious infestation there. Rubino said Ingram gave the guy advise for dealing with his infested bed and furniture.
And there you have it folks.
Because when people are walking around allegedly covered in bed bugs in public places, we should assume that they simply were not aware of the issue or what needed to be done, right?
When people are walking around covered in bed bugs, it suggests that there may be various reasons for this, which may or may not include:
- Sensory or perception issues which may prevent one recognizing they have bed bugs (which does not sound like the case here, but who knows),
- Psychological or social reasons which prevent them recognizing the problem or taking action,
- Financial or other reasons which prevent them taking action, or effective action,
- Lack of necessary social and financial support.
Acting City Inspections Director Cleveland Thompson said he had heard about the courtroom drama.
“But we didn’t respond. It wasn’t our (case) but if this gentleman had a bedbug problem at his residence, we would instruct him to hire a certified exterminator,” Thompson said.
I understand that this was not the role of this department. However, someone needs to do more than tell a man in this situation to hire a pest management professional.
Interestingly, the Trentonian reports, this happened Monday, three days before the city council is to consider adopting new guidelines regarding pest control in landlord-tenant situations.
A Times of Trenton article on NJ.com (back in March) reported that,
The proposed amendments to the city’s existing pest law would require landlords to hire licensed pest control companies to check their properties every six months, provide the city with proof of the examinations, treat any infested units and adjoining units, and give new tenants information about bedbug control.
It sounds like such an extreme story, and given the timing, a very small part of me wonders if the man was intentionally trying to make a political statement of some kind.
However, I expect he’s just another person living with a really bad case of bed bugs, a situation which is not the norm, but still, this is not the first case we’ve heard of.
I really hope that he is able to get help and eliminate this problem.
If you live in Trenton, the city Department of Health has a Bed Bug Information page.
Some of these resources are not bad.
However, the “Need-To-Know Brochure” (PDF) is iffy. It implies bites are a reliable sign of bed bugs (though it’s important people are told that many actually don’t react), and recommends as “remedies” lines of petroleum jelly, and Neem, claiming the latter “prevents bed bugs from eating, eventually making them starve themselves.”
I’d like some references on this; we’ve heard mixed reports on neem, including claims that it’s a repellent (not desirable with bed bugs), and that it’s a contact killer. At least one pro-neem website recommends against its use for bed bugs.
I don’t recall other bed bug fact sheets recommending its use. I’d be very open to independent field testing data on neem and bed bugs. If it were shown to be a proven solution, and proper usage were part of the information provided, I’d be all for it.
The Trenton bed bug information is a mixed bag. It doesn’t clarify for residents who pays for treatment in rentals, or what homeowners should do who can’t pay for professional help with bed bugs. Clearly, Trenton needs to disseminate better information about bed bugs. And they’re not alone in this.
It will be interesting to see if this incident has an impact on Thursday’s consideration of the proposed amendments to Trenton’s pest law.