Harrisburg’s Channel 21 News: afraid to say “bed bugs”?

by nobugsonme on April 21, 2009 · 5 comments

in bed bug bites, bed bug epidemic, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, spread of bed bugs

I was highly perplexed to watch this two-day report from CBS 21 News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Yesterday, Ewa Roman reported on a “Bug Infested Building” in a boardinghouse over the Tara Station bar on 4th St. in Harrisburg, near the Pennsylvania State Capital building:

Bugs on the ceilings and walls. Insects are taking over the building above the Tara Station Bar on 4th Street in Harrisburg.

I was very troubled to discover that while the photo accompanying the article and video clearly shows a bed bug, and the video itself shows clear footage of bed bugs crawling on walls, the reporter repeatedly refers only to “bugs” and “bug infestation:”

But one man did show us bug bite marks on his arms and neck. He even had some bugs on his sweatshirt.

What kind of bug might be biting this man? Hmmm.

There are also fairly obvious shots of extensive fecal spotting in the area where bed bugs are crawling on the walls and ceiling. And yet “bugs” are mentioned six times in the text of the article; bed bugs: not once.

Here, you can watch video of the episode from Monday: “Bug Infested Building.” (I did not embed the video because it is set to automatically play, which can be quite annoying for people who land on the website.)

And then, Tuesday, the same news station apparently caught up with Walley Mowi, the landlord, to ask why tenants were living under these conditions. He claims that tenants are responsible for the infestation because they have messy and cluttered rooms; in fact, bed bugs are not bred of clutter, or attracted to old food, vomit, or dirt.

Any one person could have brought them into the building, and they could even have walked over from an adjoining building. The hotel offices and the pub downstairs should be carefully inspected as they could also be affected.

Remarkably, once more, the reporter (this time Ben Russell) again makes no mention of bed bugs. Just “bugs” (which are mentioned seven times).

You can watch Tuesday’s update “Bug Infested Building: ‘It’s not my fault'” here. As with the previous story, this reel contains bed bug footage, mention of bug bites, and this time, of dried blood stains on a pillow.

I am dismayed that these reporters are either unaware that bed bugs exist, or are avoiding mentioning them for some bizarre reason. I do not think this is responsible journalism.

Just yesterday I reported how health officials in both Abilene, Texas and Davenport, Iowa believed their cities currently had no bed bug problems, because they were receiving no reports of them. My response: if you live there, tell the health department you have bed bugs.

The people of Harrisburg need to know about bed bugs and how prevalent they are. The bed bugs in this boardinghouse have (according to the news report) been a problem for over a year. And this is not the only incidence of bed bugs in Harrisburg.

If we do not all admit bed bugs are a problem, where we all live, then we will not take action to halt their spread.

If you pretend bed bugs are not there, they will not go away.

1 parakeets April 22, 2009 at 9:21 am

Something similar happened to me. I once presented a 45 minute workshop about my story with bedbugs to a group I belong to. They directors me my workshop title in part from “Bedbugs, My Story” to “Insects, My Story.” Do people think they can catch bedbugs from the word itself?

In this case, I wonder if there is a real estate connection who is telling the news media “You have no proof this is bedbugs, only your guess. Until you have proof it is bedbugs, if you say it is bedbugs, we’ll sue you for lowering the value of our property.” In some cities, real estate interests are protecting themselves from the bedbug issue by keeping the word bedbug out of the news media.

I live in Boston and did a search on the words “bed bugs” and “bedbug” in our two large newspapers here. Even though bedbugs are increasing at an alarming rate in this city of many college students and many tourists, there is almost a total lack of any references to bedbugs, and when they do mention them, they deliberately (I think) connect them to poor areas of the city and public housing. In one year there was just one short mention of a conference about bedbugs.

2 nobugsonme April 23, 2009 at 2:00 am

Hi ‘Keets,

Thanks for your message.

I too wondered if they were afraid of legal implications of saying “that’s a bed bug.”

I hope not, though. If we cannot name the problem, we have no hope of fixing it…

3 Janice June 28, 2009 at 12:16 am

I just found a bed bug in my bed. As sick as I was I got on my computer to comfirm. And it is!! So now I have questions. I live in the Harrisburg area so if anyone can help. Are the landlores responsable of getting rid of these bugs? If you know, send to my e-mail address: jquinones1973@yahoo.com

4 nobugsonme July 1, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Janice, since this article was about what was technically a “hotel” (though structured like single-occupancy apartments), it is unclear whether landlords pay for treatment in Harrisburg.

Your best bet would be to call the Health Dept., since they took an interest in this case, they may be able to advise you on your rights and they may also wish to follow up.

Tenants’ advice organizations are a good place to ask for help. The main public library reference desk librarians should also be able to help you find out the laws concerning tenants in your town.

Good luck!

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