What can I do to prevent spreading to other units?(5 posts)
2 weeks ago I stayed a friends house overnight (8 hours, tops in the apartment). She thought there was a bug problem, but *not* bed bugs. As precaution, all my stuff went up on a shelf by the radiator (shoes included) and I slept in her clean clothes on a blow up mattress on clean sheets from a plastic bag. Everything was washed and dried as soon as I got home, plus a shower. Turns out they were bed bugs (obviously!) but her PCO said it was "mild". My shoes came up clean, my purse was sprayed with rubbing alcohol and put into a sealed plastic bag, and is next to be laundered. I'm in the process of washing/drying clothes. I have had zero symptoms, no signs of anything. A PCO came out and gave me a cautiously optimistic "all clear" and told me to keep an eye out. I can deal with that, so far.
When I told my landlord about a possible exposure, he flipped out. Stated that he was not liable for treatment, I was the one that "brought it in" (this was before the PCO inspected), etc. Now i'm terrified of it moving to the apartment next to me. What can I do to lessen that event? Caulk any holes? put DE down against the shared wall? Get the PCO to do some treatment anyway? This is seriously the worst part of my experience so far, and I don't want to be constantly paranoid about it for the next month and a half.
Bed bugs can and do spread from apartment to apartment. And I understand that dealing with landlord, particularly one that reacts as yours did, can stress you out more.
However, everything you say in your story suggests to me that while you'll need to be extra cautious for the next two months, I don't think there's a particularly likely chance that you have brought bed bugs home. (That doesn't mean that I'm suggesting that you should pull your purse out and toss it on your landlord's head, tempting though that may be. Read on for more details.)
If you had a hitch hiker or two in your things, that hitch hiker or two would be setting up a spot in your apartment close to you first. Bed bugs are not marathon runners. They're more like video game playing couch potatoes. (I say that because I have my own video game playing--as well as book reading--couch potato tendencies.)
Here's what I mean.
When I'm deeply engrossed in a book or a game, I do get up off the couch--but pretty much only to go to the bathroom, shower, eat, and sleep. (And, frankly, sometimes I fall asleep on the couch.)
Bed bugs behave a lot like that. They'll harbor as close to their food as they can get away with without increasing the possibility of being squashed by their food and/or of being found. If you don't disturb them, they'll harbor on or in the bed. (I had them while I was traveling a lot, so mine made themselves at home--I kid you not--under the pillow on the side of the bed I didn't sleep on, on some clean sheets I had stacked on the bed on the side I didn't sleep on, and on the sheets on the corners of the bed under the comforter. Once I stopped traveling and changed the sheets --which I was doing less often than normal since I was often not sleeping at home--then some of them spread out.)
If the bed doesn't feel safe, they'll still stick as close to the bed as they can.
Unlike humans playing video games or reading books, bed bugs don't care if they poop where they sit. So fecal matter can be another tip.
My point, however, is that unless you set off a fogger or you apply repellent kinds of chemicals, the bugs aren't very likely to migrate to another apartment--esp. in the early stages of an infestation. Get enough of the bugs around, and we know that some bugs will set off on their own. Nobody's sure how many or is certain about why, but we know it happens.
At this point, if I were in your situation, the first thing I'd do is what you've done: take precautions to heat up any items you had with you in your friend's place to kill any possible hitch hikers.
Next up, I would consider getting some passive monitors like BB Alert Passive. These devices provide warm, comfy, safe-feeling homes for bed bugs. Now before you tell me I'm crazy to suggest such a thing, remember that you are looking at a possible exposure to a few hitch hikers. If you want to increase the chances that you catch any that managed to survive your washing and drying attack, you want to provide them with a convenient place to hang out so you'll know they're there. If you put an ideal bed bug habitat on your bed and you don't get any there, that's also a vastly increased suggestion that you didn't bring hitch hikers with you. If you don't provide an easy for you to inspect welcoming home for them, there are a lot of places in the average apartment that bed bugs can hide.
For the next 55 to 60 days, inspect your bed and your couch and the monitors once a week. Make sure you have light colored sheets on your bed so that if bedbugs show up, their fecal matter will show.
As for keeping them from spreading to other apartments, don't set off foggers, don't self-apply chemicals or DE, and make sure you keep sleeping in your place. If you do have an early infestation, simply following those steps should keep the bugs in your place.
Other than that, I hope your friend was suitably apologetic. Since bed bugs are a pest of exposure, if I even suspected bed bugs, I would alert anyone coming to my place to the fact that they probably shouldn't stay over or should follow the protocols outlined in this FAQ just in case. I'm less volatile about it these days, partly because I have a Packtite, but many people I know would refuse to let houseguests stay over if they suspected a bed bug infestation. I scrupulously let people know that it was likely bed bugs and let my friends make their own decisions. As you likely know now, just putting items on a shelf isn't the best plan. It would have been better to put any non-washable items in a sealed plastic bag as soon as you got into the place that might have an infestation. If it's just an overnight, you can easily use a garbage bag. The larger ziplocs are mostly useful long term so that you can see your stuff and you don't keep throwing away bags you've ripped open or that can't be securely tied shut any longer. (The idea is to make an airtight seal, so there are only so many times you can do that before the plastic won't behave any longer.)
Hope some of that helps.
Thanks buggyinsocal. People keep telling me that I'm probably ok but to keep an eye out, which should reassure me some, but it isn't sinking in yet. I have ordered Climbups, but I might wait until after the new year to put them on so I don't isolate the bed. The passive BB Alert is probably next on my list.
Since I don't want to accidentally spread the hypothetical bugs, should I stop washing/drying/steaming my clothes? Could I steam my couch? It's a cheapish steamer for clothes, but I was thinking about getting the pillows a once over at least. Should I wait until I have the BB Alert to do that? All these "what ifs" are driving me up the wall.
Drive By Post:
1. Climb Ups and BB Alert Passive cannot be used at the same time. (At least, they cannot be used on the same piece of furniture.)
2. Steaming the couch seems like it's unnecessary. It's also a bad idea if you aren't using a dry vapor steamer. Steaming the couch with other than a dry vapor steamer can cause mold in the couch.
3. I would only worry about washing/drying any fabric items that were in the other place or that came into direct contact with items that were in the other place. It can get expensive to do all that laundry, and if you don't need to do it, why waste that money when you could be saving it in case of other expenses?
1. I'll be using the passive BB Alert on the bed, and climbups maybe on the couch. Just in case.
2. Shows how wrapped up I am in this BB stuff, I didn't even think about mold.
3. I think laundry is my version of "busy work" so I don't get really anxious, but price will be a factor soon.
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