“Business as Usual”: Bed Bugs at the Longmont, Colorado Library

by cilecto on August 22, 2011 · 19 comments

in bed bugs, colorado, libraries

Long-time readers of Bedbugger.com are familiar with this scenario:

  1. Local media reports that some local venue (e.g. a school, office or store) was shut down, briefly, due to a bed bug infestation.
  2. Pest control professionals have dutifully “treated” the place.
  3. The business owner or a local official reassures that “there’s no public health hazard”.

This ‘blog has often scratched its head (and arms and neck) wondering how – when bed bug infestations in homes often take weeks and multiple treatments to clear – anyone can feel confident that a bed bug infestation has been cleared in a public place, in one treatment.

There’s the ever present suspicion that the manager is giving his/her best guess, or is taking advantage of the one fact that health department officials repeatedly assure us of: “Bed Bugs are not known to transmit disease.”

Today’s exhibit is the public library in Longmont, Colorado (USA), as highlighted by forum veteran “kirads09″.

According to the Longmont Times-Call, bed bugs were found on Thursday, August 18th in five out of six chairs suspected of harboring them, in two areas of the library. Staff members, who had received “bed bug training” in recent months, suspected the infestation and brought in the pros. The library remained open, while the chairs were placed off limits for treatment.

The local Terminix affiliate treated the chairs with “Mr Freeze” (frozen CO2) and the library opened for business as usual on Friday, August 19th. Interestingly, library staff, working under the pest professionals’ direction, assisted in inspecting other areas of the library. A follow-up canine inspection is planned.

A sign on the library door greeted patrons on Friday morning, stating

Please be aware that an exterminator confirmed bed bugs in 5 upholstered chairs.  The bedbugs have been eradicated.

And yet we know that one treatment is often not enough to eliminate bed bugs with many methods (and frozen CO2, which is also marketed as Cryonite, is included).

As a practical matter, it’s implied from the article that a very short period of time passed from the chairs’ isolation to their treatment. Libraries and other public facilities should note that storing or cordoning off infested furniture or areas carries the risk of bed bugs’ escaping to other parts of the building and exacerbating the problem.

Bedbugger forum participant “kirads09” questioned whether the library should have remained open pending treatment. An infestation in a public place like a library presents a dilemma: as the bed bug epidemic spreads and bed bugs are found in more public places, can we “drop everything” and shut down facilities for inspection and treatment? Do we close the library for treatment the second time bed bugs are found? How about the third and fourth? Can we continue to assume that bed bugs are isolated to certain libraries or can it be reasonably inferred that every library  – which can serve hundreds of patrons a week and whose “product” is in and out of its customers’ homes, some with bed bed bug infestations – has (or will soon have) some bed bugs, somewhere on the premises?

How do we continue, as a civilized society, to maintain our civic facilities and the “third places” where people meet and learn and where communities are built? Will we need to shut down (and perhaps shun) each and every public library when we find bed bugs in its chairs, or like the staff of the Longmont library, can we all benefit from “bed bug training” to enhance our awareness of the likely bed bug presence in any major public facility, and to protect ourselves individually and collectively?

Your comments on these issues are welcome below.

The following video from the Times-Call features library users’ reactions to the news about the bed bugs in their local library.

If the YouTube video is not embedded above, you can view it on the Times-Call’s website.

Update (8/30/11):

Alas, the bed bugs at the Longmont Library appear not to have been cleared up in that one treatment.

CBS reports that a local bed bug canine has detected bed bugs in nine chairs at the library, including two of those previously treated for bed bugs.

If you’re keeping count, that means seven chairs either had bed bugs which weren’t detected the first time, or they have been infested since the first treatment. A total of twelve chairs have been found to be infested in total.

This raises some interesting questions about how bed bugs got into twelve different chairs — apparently without infesting any other areas. Is there an erstwhile heavily-infested Bed Bug Mary, or Larry, camping out in different chairs on different days?

The article mentions that the library is working on an ongoing inspection program. That’s good news!

It does not mention if the canine team hired visually verifies dog alerts (see our FAQ on canine scent detection for more on this).

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
1 CarpathianPeasant August 22, 2011 at 9:49 am

.

Reporting from Greater Cincinnati, Ohio…. This is a limited information comment. 🙂

Bed bugs have reportedly been found in both the Cincinnati library (which is a big, highly used one — near the top nationally — and the foundation of the regional consortium) and the Covington library, which is one of four small ones maintained by the county underfoot. Anyone doing something like serious research goes into Cincinnati or uses inter-library exchange services with other libraries ideally in Kentucky.

About four-five years ago I went to Covington’s library every day. It had padded seats for the computers and four upholstered chairs for people waiting or just resting. Then I got too sick to go anywhere. Subsequently, although still not well enough to be running there daily, I did manage to go a couple of times. (The bookmobile comes around every couple of weeks and presumably everything on it has been checked.)

The last time I was phyiscally there, like last year, the padded seats had been replaced with straight wooden chairs. The upholstered furniture was still there, but I would guess it all was scheduled to be thown out as soon as replacements with something else was possible as it was all very dirty already. And, one time when I went we were told we had to leave early as the place was being closed down for bed bug treatment — no known news reports about this, so I assume it is ongoing.

Given the wooden chairs (all shiny and new and very old fashioned), I would say that the way people live is being changed by people with a brain in their heads and a realistic view of life. 8)

2 Pest Control Portland August 22, 2011 at 1:17 pm

At least the library notified the public. We’ve had multiple incidents where the public institution made our company sign confidentiality agreements so that the infestation would not become known. The reasoning, they said, was that there is no law requiring them to declare a bed bug infestation any more than there is a rodent infestation. I’m not sure about that. Does anyone on here know better?

Moderator note: Inline link to commercial site edited out.

3 TheAllergyGuy August 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Love how she said “Ive lived in New York” so of course she knows about bed bugs. However, this mother has the right attitude. We cannot let our day to day lives be determined by bedbugs, but we do need to be aware and conscious of our surroundings. Of course you should not sit in the upholstered chairs. If you travel you should use a suitcase cover or a PackTite. Check the mattresses in hotels, or the seat before you use public transportation. It is our responsibilities as citizens to make sure we do our best to live bed bug free.

4 NoanestheticNYC August 25, 2011 at 1:53 am

Clarity will come only when we (1) assume in advance the presence of bedbugs in public or heavily-trafficked private places, (2) stop insisting on “visual evidence” as a criterion either of the presence or absence of bedbugs in such places, and (3) expect proprietors/managers/owners/users of such places to carry out regular, frequent, effective, and permanent mitigation programs, and factor in these costs along with other utilities and maintenance. Insisting on visual evidence or its absence delays treatment, gives false reassurance, and permits unacceptably dense bug populations to afflict just those spaces to which so many people are exposed on a daily basis.

I find that one thing people cannot get their heads around is how unbelievably fast these things move when unconfined–the videos are so frequently of frantic mobs in a tiny jars that give no sense of how much ground bedbugs can cover in a matter of seconds. Some real-time, characteristic straight-line movement in a well-scaled, familiar context, perhaps in public service announcement form with M/KPH indicated, would go a very long way to showing people how instantaneously these bugs scatter and relocate.

Another red herring is the focus on luggage and bags and travelling. First, one need not set things down, or sit down, or even stand still to pick up bugs in high-traffic areas. Second, everything about a person with hair-width interior spaces is a potential transport vector: shoes, clothes, cell phone and eyeglass cases, shopping bags, any papers, some jewelry, and ONE’S OWN HAIR must be decontaminated (or isolated) with every exposure to high-traffic places. The notion that there are singular contamination vectors like hotels and luggage, or particular cities, is an illusion. Households with young children who sit on the floor (with their backpacks!) at school or are more vulnerable, in my view, than people who take a trip or two and stay in hotels.

5 Wally August 25, 2011 at 10:58 am

“First, one need not set things down, or sit down, or even stand still to pick up bugs in high-traffic areas. Second, everything about a person with hair-width interior spaces is a potential transport vector: shoes, clothes, cell phone and eyeglass cases, shopping bags, any papers, some jewelry, and ONE’S OWN HAIR must be decontaminated (or isolated) with every exposure to high-traffic places. ”

I’m sorry, but is this a reasonable solution? Every time you go out in public, you must then decontaminate yourself? You’re not going to win many converts to your cause with advice like that.

6 CarpathianPeasant August 25, 2011 at 11:30 am

.

Wally, with all due respect….

NoanestheticNYC has made one of the most sensible statements I have seen or heard in a long, long time.

May I suggest you re-read it slowly, item by item?

Carpathian Peasant

.

7 Wally August 25, 2011 at 11:51 am

I stumbled on this site while doing some preliminary research on bedbugs at a hotel I’ll be staying at in the near future. While there I plan on checking out the mattress and surrounding area. There have been no online reports about bugs at the hotel, and if the visual inspection is okay, I’ll sleep well. Maybe I’m still leaving myself open to an infestation, but I’ll take my chances.

NoanestheticNYC’s post sounds like the writings of someone who has problems with paranoia. Decontaminating yourself, your clothes, and your belongings after every trip into public is mind-blowingly inconvenient and seems completely unreasonable to me.

8 CarpathianPeasant August 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm

.

I hope for your sake you continue in a state of inexperience. In the meantime….

1. Check out the life cycle picture on this site so you know with what you are dealing overall.

2. Keep in mind: salt and pepper. To some people, the very young, if unfed, look like salt (at a glance) and, if fed, pepper. Babies eat, too.

CP

9 NoanestheticNYC August 25, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Silver lining here : the learning/belief curve is so steep that the problem will continue to accelerate exponentially, which means more learning experiences for everyone, which in turn means, eventually, a general, regularized, consistent response. These are empirical questions! and facts will out in the end.

Thanks, CP, for chiming in.

10 aspiringlibrarygoer August 26, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I came to this site today to pose a question about safely going to infested libraries, and this happened to be on the homepage…. so I think I’ll post here.

It’s back to school time and my two elementary kids devour books. We’re in the Cincinnati area and stopped going to all libraries 3 years ago when we discovered how rooted the bedbug problems are in the library system. We decided the risk of infestation wasn’t worth it. But oh how I wish we could go there and utilize the fantastic service that libraries offer! We don’t have a packtite. If our dryer has one of those inserts to place shoes and other items on, would that work for books? Is there anyway we can bring books home in ziplocks and rid them of bugs and eggs safely without a packtite? Is it took risky to even step foot in a library?

11 CarpathianPeasant August 27, 2011 at 1:40 pm


(Well, second try at this….)

You say your are in the Cincinnati area. That cam mean a couple of counties in southeastern Indiana, at least three counties in northern Kentucky and in southwestern Ohio maybe four outside of Hamilton county if Montgomery (Dayton) is included, the three otherwise being Butler, Warren and Clermont. All of them have assorted different jurisdictions and rules.

If you’re in Indiana, I can’t help a bit. Although I looked a little, I found nothing much, not even at Perdue University. I can’t say I looked a lot. I did look long enough to find referrals to the University of Kentucky.

If you’re in Kentucky, insofar as libraries go, I can’t add much more than what’s above, and that’s Kenton county only. I think they were found out in Burlington or some such place, and I would guess by now some action has been taken.

If you’re in Butler, Warren or Clermont county, again I can’t help a bit. Dayton Metro library I would imagine is alert as the former Biltmore hotel building right downtown and now senior citizens housing was completely evacuated for a week or so a while ago so it could be “gassed.” It must have cost a pretty penny. A Covington city commission pulled out a heady description of things from the Montgomery county health department and gave me a copy. It’s rather substantial.

If you’re in Hamilton county or Cincinnati, one place you might get some discussion is a site called “City-Data” where there are computer rooms for major cities and a listing for every state. Not long ago (-?- couple of weeks ago) there was a thread discussing none other than the public library situation. It boiled down to at least one person is opting for alternate means, while others see a concern but not that big of one.

12 CarpathianPeasant August 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm

.

And everyone can make that first line read:

You say you are in the Cincinnati area. That can mean a couple of counties in

instead of:

You say your are in the Cincinnati area. That cam mean a couple of counties in

13 Ci Lecto August 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Aspiring Library Goer, while this article touches on the “nagging question” of how people will react to real or perceived threats of bed bugs in public library furniture or books, I believe that the forum is a better place to discuss practical ideas for protecting your family. http://bedbugger.com/forum/

Regarding the kerfluffle over what “No Anesthetic” said: I believe that we do need to recognize that any bed bugs can hitch a ride on any object. However, for many of these objects, a visual inspection is probably all that’s needed. Finally, as we likely can’t eliminate all possible infestation sources, we need to develop vigilance in our homes, to be able to intervene early in case bed bugs are detected.

NA’s mention of hair is tricky. In most cases, while bed bugs might incidentally be found on the hair and body, unlike lice, this is not their preferred place to harbor. My understanding is that bed bugs are relatively easy to comb or wash out of hair. We’ve seen cases of schools applying the “lice” paradigm to kids on which bed bugs were found – go home, get a doctor’s note – assuming the child is the “carrier”, though the bed bug could just as well have been picked up on school premises.

I believe that we are better off for our communal infrastructure, be they libraries, buses and trains, houses of worship or coffee bars. We would be much “poorer” if we had to shun these places. At the same time, we need to push for reasonable solutions to bed bug infestations, be it for new dusts and chemicals, review of older, disused pesticides or to push back against landlords and exterminators who insist on onerous (but reportedly not universally necessary) preparation regimens.

14 nobugsonme August 30, 2011 at 10:58 am

Added to the post above: bad news.

Update (8/30/11):

Alas, the bed bugs at the Longmont Library appear not to have been cleared up in that one treatment.

CBS reports that a local bed bug canine has detected bed bugs in nine chairs at the library, including two of those previously treated for bed bugs.

If you’re keeping count, that means seven chairs either had bed bugs which weren’t detected the first time, or they have been infested since the first treatment. Twelve different chairs have been found to be infested.

This raises some interesting questions about how bed bugs got into twelve different chairs — apparently without infesting any other areas. Is there an erstwhile heavily-infested Bed Bug Mary, or Larry, camping out in different chairs on different days?

The article mentions that the library is working on an ongoing inspection program. That’s good news!

It does not mention if the canine team hired visually verifies dog alerts (see our FAQ on canine scent detection for more on this).

15 Ci Lecto August 30, 2011 at 11:29 am

Sad, but I guess that’s how people learn that these things aren’t always “open and shut”. We’ll adapt as humans, hopefully in good ways.

On a lighter note, the article captured some important points:
– The dog is a beagle mix.
– Its name is “Macaroni”.

Great “file photo” of bed bug on skin. Wonder if it’s Sorkin’s.

16 nobugsonme August 30, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Clearly, people love dogs, Ci. No matter what else happens in a bed bug story, if there’s a dog involved, we find out its predominant breed, name, and usually its owner’s name, rank and serial number.

Perhaps we need a promotional ad educating the public about bed bugs, with a talking dog.

The dog could point out the kinds of facts that Lou Sorkin often notes that journalists get wrong: like the size and coloring of fed and unfed first instar nymphs, for example. It could show us visuals.

That might get attention…

Or perhaps people would just remember the cute dog. (Sigh.)

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: