Vancouver public education forum on bed bugs is a start, but probably not enough

by nobugsonme on June 27, 2007 · 11 comments

in bed bug treatment, british columbia, canada, government, vancouver

And now, some good news: According to “In Brief” in the Globe and Mail,

The British Columbia government wants to put the bed-bug problem to sleep in Vancouver.

As ridiculous as it sounds, that’s the first time I have ever heard any member of any government saying they wanted to end bed bugs in their region. Period. That’s the good news. Admitting you have a serious problem is an essential start. And identifying education as a key component, also good.

When I saw the headline to this article, “City hopes education puts bed bugs to rest,” I almost started cheering, seriously. Just after writing about the first person to (apparently) be fired for bringing bed bugs to work, we really needed to hear some good bed bug news.

But then I saw how short it was. Come on, Vancouver! You can get rid of bed bugs. You can at least make them much, much less prevalent. But it’s going to take a bit more than one forum. A lot more.

The article continues,

Vancouver-Burrard Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt held a public forum on the issue last night to educate people on how to prevent an infestation.

Predictably, it looks like it took bed bugs becoming a financial problem for the government to care.

[Mayencourt] said the provincial Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance has been paying the tab for cleaning up repeated bed-bug infestations in Vancouver’s single-room-occupancy buildings in the Downtown Eastside.

Medical health officer John Blatherwick said bed-bug outbreaks are common and tough to get rid of. Even after a room has been cleaned, he said, it takes just one person to start the cycle all over again.

Public education, as Mayencourt and Blatherwick imply, is key to getting rid of bed bugs. But if you seriously want the problem to end, I am afraid yu’re going to need to throw more money at it: in the form of a public education campaign (as in more than one forum, and probably some advertising), money for treatments, and even for things like mattress encasements, large resealable bags (e/g/ XL ziplocs) and in serious cases maybe even mattresses for some.

1 Bugalina June 27, 2007 at 1:27 pm

Vancouver won the Bid for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games…..That is less than three years away. If bed bug infestation continues to grow at the current rate and we remain at the mercy of the “don’t expect any silver bullet” thinking…Then Vancouver has a big problem on their plate….Tourists must be made aware that Vancouver is a heaviliy bed bug infested City…bed bugs will be coming and going at alarming rates…Olympians Beware….

2 hopelessnomo June 27, 2007 at 2:28 pm

Right, but Bugalina, consider that Vancouver is downright progressive when it comes to bedbugs. They have done an extensive pilot project and have learned a great deal. Compared to New York, well, there is no comparison really. Vancouver is not more infested than any other big city, probably; they are just doing something about it, including tracking infestations.

3 Bugalina June 27, 2007 at 2:53 pm

I’m not quite certain that Vancouver isn’t more heavily infested…I have no statistics but just from the overwhelming numbers of people who have acknowledged infestations in Vancouver, I have the feeling that they, like San Francisco, have a high infestation amount. Factored into this could be the fact that they have “come clean” about their bed bug problem, whereas NYC officials prefer to remain hush hush. Nonetheless, Bed bugs are crawling all over Vancouver. And the article posted above speaks to the dilemna “it takes just one person to start the infestation cycle all over again”…..This is why bed bugs will never be eradicated unless something comes onto the market that has a decent residual kill rate….Unless and until this happens bed bugs will pose a significant problem for everyone. My traveling habits have changed significantly…basically they have come to a halt….A good portion of my life has become…”how to remain bed bug free”… the hoops I jump thru are extreme. Most people will never do this…and that is why bed bugs will continue to get into our homes.
No matter how much we educate, bed bugs can only be killed with long lasting residual chemicals. We cannot expect on the majority to jump thru extreme hoops. Vancouver remains a City in which bed bugs are a big problem. I would never go there to vacation and be comfortable. Imho, they have a problem on their hands as regards the bed bug infestation potential for the Winter Olympics. Having “survived” an infestation, I can say from the bottom of my heart….It’s not worth going if the odds are high….

4 nobugsonme June 27, 2007 at 11:38 pm

What I think Vancouver politicians need to get is that it’s now just SROs in the Downtown Eastside and West End apartments, as th article seems to imply. It’s hitting all over Vancouver. So BC politicians should address public education at all Vancouver residents, as well as helping fund low-income residents’ treatment.

5 Bugalina June 28, 2007 at 7:55 am

Unfortunately it is a bug associated with low income – I think -…This is such tunnel vision on the part of the government. The only reason the bugs have higher rates of population in the low income areas is because they are so expensive to kill off, and they take a tremendous amount of time and effort to kill off. Thus, people with more financial means have the money to spend to exterminate and they can replace the necessary house hold items that have been infested. As we all know these bugs get transported and they seek out blood. But the high concentration of lower income in these areas of downtown Vancouver do need help. IF the gov’t. doesn’t address these areas then bed bugs with take over Vancouver. I was there about 6 yrs. ago. We stayed in a nice hotel but on our walk just a few blocks away we encountered homeless people shooting up on benches. We had to avoid stepping on discarded needles. I was shocked. Vancouver has to get all of this under control if they want people to attend the Olympics. But,like I said , without a decent residual kill , they are swimming against the current. These downtown areas have a serious drug problem. Forgive me for assuming this but I think addicts don’t really care about bed bugs..they want to get high. This presents a big problem for Vancouver.

6 Sean June 28, 2007 at 7:26 pm

Hello All,

I attended this meeting as a speaker. I was very impressed with the panelists (Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), A Residential Tenancy Official, and a Doctor from St. Paul’s Hospital, and the MC [a politician whose riding includes some of the downtown eastside].

Vancouver is no different than any other major city …

We have our “bad area” which is comprised of homelessness and drug use but very little violent crime, we have low income neighbourhoods, and we have affluent areas.

What Vancouver does have than many major cities lack is a proactive approach to problems.

Vancouver Coastal Health has been involved on may levels in the fight against bed bugs. They have mandated entire buildings be treated for bed bugs or face closure. They have piloted projects to study the problem and evaluate which areas of the city are hardest hit, they have piloted an education campaign (they speak about once per week at various venues), and are in the process of backing the introduction of a product that will greatly aid in the eradication of bed bugs.

VANDU has piloted bed bug problems whereby they tackle whole buildings at a time. Their staff and volunteers educate the tenants on bed bugs, assist with laundering (and pay for it), de-clutter suites, rid badly infested items directly to the dump, etc.

Lorne Mayencourt [MLA] has pushed for funding and government backing to fight bed bugs. Low income residents can get mattress encasements and plastic bags at no charge.

The Residential Tenancy Board representation educates tenants that it is the landlord’s responsibility to pay to have bed bugs treated. The results of non-conformance can result in reduced rent, breaking a lease, and litigation.

The BC Ministry of Environment [enforcers of the Provincial Pesticide Act] have been more than accommodating in aiding the Pest Control industry. They attend workshops and talks on bed bugs. And they too are backing the introduction of new products.

Yes there are bed bugs in Vancouver … But we are prepared to fight them.


Entomologist / Pest Professional

7 nobugsonme June 28, 2007 at 7:46 pm

Thanks Sean!
It sounds like the Vancouver government is much more “together” on bed bugs than those of other North American cities.

8 Bugalina June 28, 2007 at 8:04 pm

I am very pleased to hear about the strides Vancouver is taking. In the interest of tourism and the 2010 Olympics , it is in their best interest to do so. Having lived close to NYC for 28 yrs. I have to say that, in comparison, Vancouver has a very Overt drug use problem. I don’t know if things have changed much in 6 yrs. but my husband and I walked down a street just blks. from our 4star hotel, that was strewn with discarded needles. I hope that Vancouver can get bed bugs under control, eventually succeeding in eradicating them, and thus become a model for other Cities. Time will tell.

9 Sean June 28, 2007 at 8:19 pm

The area you speak of centrals around Main St. and Hastings St. For about 3 blocks in every direction the streets are littered with homeless people, drug users, and prostitutes.

There are in fact some 4 star hotels near the area (the land and real estate is cheap there), but for the most part Vancouver tourists are several blocks from this area. The police do a decent job of corralling the underbelly of the city to the confines of the area mentioned above.

Oh, and keep in mind that marijuana is a misdemeanor here [you get a ticket] and not criminal [unless you are trafficking]. So yes, some drug use is overt.

Here is an example of a proactive, progressive approach to drug use and the spread of HIV.

Vancouver piloted a project to provide a safe injection site for users. This is still in progress so the results will not be out yet, but they are trying “new” things.

The idea is that the drug users are going to do drugs. Often they share needles. This can lead to the transmission of HIV. And as you said discarded needles on the streets.

The hope of this project is to make it safer, provide counseling and wean the users off drugs.

Time will tell if this is successful … Or just a waste of tax payers money.

10 Bugalina June 28, 2007 at 8:32 pm

As I remember this street was very close ( walking distance ) to the Touristy waterfront. We took Hastings down towards the water and some winding streets that have lots of shops and restaurants. I am no innocent but I was quite frankly shocked by the needles and the drug users in a Park, maybe on Hastings. I was not really concerned about crime as it was in the daytime, but now, if I were there I would definitely be concerned about bed bugs. I hope that Vancouver will be successful in eradicating bed bugs. It is a beautiful City, but speaking from my heart I think they have to get bed bugs under control before the Olympics.

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