Occupational Hazard, Bringing bugs home?(10 posts)
Looking for help and support. As home health nurse, I spend 8 hrs per day, 5 days a week with the same client in his home. About 3 weeks ago the family discovered they had bed bugs when they found a live bug, but were being bitten for weeks before, just didn't tell me, as they weren't aware of what was causing the bites. I was already using precautions not to bring roaches home, but wasn't changing my clothes and happened to bring a cockroach home every now and then in spite of that, which I promptly found and killed, and treated my house haven't seen others at home. Even though I have never had roaches before--and I am almost 50, now after the bed bug news.. I am not even phased by the roaches.
Anyway, on with my story, the family lives in an old house converted to a duplex. Apparently the house was infested already when they moved in, the neighbors exterminated in Feb and didn't say anything. Now being June..all were made aware. The side I work in was treated, but not the neighbors just a few days ago. It was that day, the day they were cleaning, and taking clothes to the laundromat...I must have brought 2, (hope not more) engorged with blood--bedbugs home with me. I changed clothes before I left, but not thinking.. I transferred some paper money from my uniform pocket to my street clothes pocket. Later that night at home as getting ready to shower, I put the money by my BR sink. a few minutes later, I found two engorged bedbugs on my vanity in the bathroom. I promptly killed them. Cleaned my bathroom from top to bottom, and spent the next several hours inspecting my house, I haven't found any signs, but I am completely wrecked with anxiety.
I have a very big house..a husband..adult kids that live at home, dogs/cats in the house. A ranch..and all my spare time away from work is consumed by livestock and ranch chores. I barely got 6 hours sleep at night anyway. We are trying to get by and don't have a dime extra even for emergency expenses. My husband says if I bring the bugs home, he is leaving. So I didn't tell him I found two, but I have informed him and the kids what to watch for.
I am hoping that the two bugs in the bathroom were in fact hitchhikers, I haven't had any bites there or at home. After I discovered the work family has bed bugs, I leave most of my belongings in the car while at work, only take in what I need. I bought a plastic chair to sit in while there. Change clothes and shoes, bag up my dirty clothes before leaving--and the other day it was hot enough to kill them in or on anything I left in my car.
The problem is..the pest control company only sprayed 4 of the rooms (one side of the duplex). Many people sleep next to the room I work in. After seeing the evidence there. (dead bugs etc).I know the infestation was bad. I constantly think something is crawling on me. I look at every piece of lint and dirt like it might be a bedbug!
To treat my house would be a huge expense, but I wonder who is responsible for the cost? My employer or me? It would be a work hazard, especially since the infestation was bad at my place of work before I was aware of it.
What should I do exactly that will prevent me from bringing them home? Or since I found two already am I already doomed? If I only recently brought some home... How long before I get bitten? I have severe allergies, I would expect to react to the bites, but I do take allegra daily anyway.
Needless to say, I can't quit my job, and if they reassign me I lose hours and can't feed my family or my animals. But day after day going to a home that has them is taking a toll on my mental--and now physical health. AND I do feel sorry for the family that acquired them unknowingly when the neighbors and or the landlord SHOULD have said something. I am pretty dedicated to helping them, but need to look out for myself and my own too.
The questions about who is responsible for treatment cost depend on state laws that vary from state to state... Additionally, there is not much case law available and many legal issues are grey areas that do not have an established answer.
The main precaution that I take after working on an infested work site is to change clothing and shoes... which you are already doing... The plastic chair is easier to inspect, but keep in mind that bed bugs can often climb many smooth appearing surfaces.
How you decon your work clothing is a critical issue... The clothing and articles that are exposed at work are the most likely mode of transporting hitchhiking bugs.
Given the level of personal stress you are experiencing due to social and financial pressures... I think you will need to clarify the issue of responsibility for treatment costs with your employer or change job sites.
You are caught in a tough dilemma with damaging consequences... regardless of the choice that you make... but if we weigh out the relative costs... It appears to me that a bed bug infestation in your home would produce more catastrophic financial and social consequences than a reduction in work hours at a new job site.
The preferred solution would be eradicating the bed bugs at your client's home, but it is unlikely that bed bugs will be successfully eliminated until competent treatment is coordinated between both units in the building.
If the owners are unable to control a long standing cockroach infestation... I would be very cynical about the odds that the current efforts will be effective with BBs.
Depending on your state laws... It may be easier to get help from the public health department for the health issues associated with the roaches than the presence of bed bugs... but some health departments will respond to bed bug complaints as well.
You have my total sympathy... I let out an involuntary...OMG... while I was reading your comments... Don't forget to tend to your own health... The stressors that you are describing sound overwhelming.
I hope you find these comments helpful... Let us know about your progress
Thank you very much for responding. I must say your reply is very well written and supportive. Actually this forum is the best thing that can happen in light of the situation!
I sprayed for roaches the other day as a preventative, and today I found what I thought to be dead bed bugs, and almost went into panic mode. After looking up pictures, I realized they are only pill bugs--and I have seen them around the place for several years. But dead--they look similar to bed bugs.
Since I do home health for a bed patient, I am in constant contact with the linens/bed etc. Although I have only seen two bugs in the patient's room (during broad daylight), and he's only had one bite. The remainder of the house must have been bad. I saw the fecal stains on the linens that they laundered. For example, on just one pillow case there were 4-5 areas which were large (6-8 inches) covered in stains.
I asked my employer for protocol in dealing with this (since my occupation is obviously high risk) and requested protective clothing and shoe covers. The answer was they will check into it.
One nurse has refused to go back to this home. Another nurse took the approach "oh well, I've already been exposed" and doesn't take any precautions. The children in this home constantly go back and forth to other family members, and there are usually overnight guests--they all sleep in the living room next to the bedroom I work in. I must walk through that room to the bathroom, kitchen etc. The neighbors--who initially had the infestation are also taking a very laid back approach. They now have new bites and are seeing bugs again. One of the neighbor's former room-mates was moving some of her things out today. An area rug, linens, clothing, all loosely piled in boxes. I advised her that the house has bed bugs and that she's taking a huge risk by doing things that way. Obviously my comments were not heeded as she threw the belongings in her car anyway.
The property management company will only pay to treat two bedrooms "once" and the renters must pay the rest. Well, that's already been done. These people are low income and can't afford that. The family I work for did not bring them in, but I don't think even moving will help with this problem based on what I see now.
As I analyze this situation, the behavior of the families-landlords etc..it is not likely this problem is not going away soon. You are right, they have failed to manage a tremendous roach infestation (which I was getting sick due to allergies before they exterminated) and now the roaches are back again too. I best buck up and take a reduction in hours and an entire change in shifts--and schedule Vs put myself through this.
Now another concern, what if I have bed bugs--and don't know it now? I mean I was exposed long before I realized all this. It would put the new families at risk. I have been a nurse for 30 years, and I believe a good one at that, but in light of this epidemic I am strongly considering a career change all together. I'm a bit burned out anyway, especially after this ordeal.
BB Alert Passive Monitors can be applied discreetly to bed frames and under furniture... You can utilize them for long term surveillance to get early detection of any live activity in your house... They have an adhesive backing and are easy to check.
Checking the monitors once a week can provide some additional peace of mind.
Check out some of the comprehensive guides on the Resource page or the FAQs... if you feel you need additional info.
Crisis often motivates us to make changes... Exploring new challenges could turn this experience into a positive turning point for your life
Thank you so much, I am going to look up the passive monitors. Since the beginning of spring I have been sleeping in the living room recliner, I can't handle windows open when I sleep due to allergies, and my husband likes them open. I have said if I found bed bugs, I'd have to throw the chair out..it's over stuffed with a lot of places for them to hide. I've been checking, but it is also a dark color.
To be honest the whole thing is creating a lot of anxiety!
Working in the BB industry I definately understand and empathize with your plight. I carry the XL Ziploc bags with me (I see a banner ad here for them as I type this) I have never had bed bugs (loose) in my house but I live as though I do. I have my mattress and box spring encased with high quality encasements and that provides peace of mind because they are bright white and easy to visually inspect. A friend of mine has an 8x8 heat (death) chamber that would work for a recliner. (These treatments are much more affordable) I also spray around my my feet and legs with cedar oil before going into jobs. I would imagine there are pros and cons to cedar oil that Im not aware of but I have sprayed the buggers with it and watched them die so I believe
If you PM me I will send you an email address, if you occupational health and safety team email me I will send them a document I wrote a few years ago about managing bedbug risks in heathcare visitor situations. They may need to update it a but but its a good start. You effectively need to look at one set of procedures for work in known infested locations and one procedure for accidental exposure. In the later having a PackTite available centrally would help a lot as you can make sure that everything is contained and resolved before you get home.
In your situation I would advise that you set an infection control set at the exit from the known infested property and avoid taking excess items in with you. That way you can contain the issue and not risk spread to either your own home or vehicle.
I would avoid the use of paper isolation suits unless its excessively bad and then only the ones with built in boot covers. I would certainly not advocate spraying yourself with anything other than alcohol, spraying yourself with anything oil based is asking for your car pedals to eventually erode and lets face it rubbing alcohol is the cheapest and most effect contact killer.
This way you avoid where possible and take steps to reduce the risk to your own home.
Should that fail then having the back up of home monitoring is the next battle you can win at by ensuring that anything that gets in does not go unnoticed and can be quickly resolved.
Hope that helps.
Bed Bugs Limited
In accordance with the AUP and FTC I openly acknowledge my vested interest in Passive Monitoring as the patent holder of that technology
Thank you all, you've been very helpful. I do worry about my car. As of now I leave certain belongings in the car (bagged in garbage or ziplock bags) and take them back and forth as needed. It takes a lot of concentration and dedication to carefully think about all the steps I am taking and I am afraid I will skip something, just like the money in my pocket deal..and bring them home or infest my car. My car could already be contaminated and I don't even know! I decided to leave my pen there, and all paperwork is kept there, that is until I must mail it on Saturday in a large manila envelope. The post office is closed at that time so I put it in the drop box. BUT if I bag it to take it there in my car, then what do I do with the bag? No garbage near by.. There's so many little things that take so much thought and concentration, it's frustrating, but I am sure not as frustrating as bringing them home. It is almost like a lifestyle change however.
Oh my gosh...just needing support here. The bb situation at my work site has gone from bad to worse. There are now a lot of them on the linens, the bed, the towels all that I have to handle. I even had a nymph on my sock right before I changed clothes. I haven't been reassigned..and I can't afford to miss work and lose any money my bills are coming due and I have all my animals to feed etc... (we have a ranch). If I miss even one day I can't really survive on my income.
I think I got bitten today as well. I told the family and they shrugged it off. I would have been cleaning every inch of that room. I am really afraid with the recent find on the shower curtain of one, I might have more. I can't find them, but we have a big house with a lot of stuff and two kids still living at home. I have isolated myself to the LR because my husband doesn't want me or my belongings on the second floor....
Now the clincher, the duplex neighbors came outside..they have bites all over their legs. Never mind that the whole place is filled with cockroaches, the neighbors now have headlice as well.
Can't sleep, can't eat and sick to my stomach!
The Travel FAQs include advice about avoiding bringing home bed bugs while being exposed, and about how to travel without bringing home bed bugs, and these tips should largely be applicable to working in infested environments. (For example, sealing a purse or briefcase in a large Ziploc while on site, changing clothing before you go in your car, office, or home.)
Having access to a Packtite might be a good long-term investment as it will facilitate treating clothing, shoes, belongings, coats, etc.
Also just to add to Doug's comments, laws pertaining to bed bug treatment (and other aspects of bed bugs) are not only state laws. Some cities have passed their own laws. Be sure and check laws and regulations which apply in your city also.
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