Bed bugs in Edmonton: inspectors’ bed bug precautions, and upcoming survey of landlords

by nobugsonme on September 22, 2010 · 2 comments

in alberta, bed bug epidemic, bed bug task force, bed bugs, edmonton, public health, spread of bed bugs

Bed bugs continue to spread in Edmonton.

The Toronto Sun has a new story today about Edmonton’s health inspectors, whose work puts them in danger of bringing bed bugs home. Health inspectors are charged with inspecting homes in response to bed bug complaints:

“I don’t think you’ll find an inspector who works here who doesn’t have a method of shedding their clothes before they go home,” says Sandra Hamilton with Alberta Health Services.

“If I go and look at somebody’s bed and find bedbugs in there, there’s a pretty good likelihood that one has dropped into the hem of my pants. So when I walk inside my front door, I take off my pants and anything else I happen to be wearing and it all goes straight into the wash.”

She never sits down while doing an inspection. In the winter, Hamilton stores her heavy coat in her unheated garage in order to freeze any stowaways.

“It’s cold getting dressed in the morning,” she says with a laugh, “but it’s better than having bedbugs in my house.”

Note that this is not recommended. Even in Edmonton, the unheated garage probably needs more time than an overnight freeze to kill bed bugs.

Dr. Michael Potter notes (in this PCT article) that

Temperatures below 0°F (-18 C) for one to two weeks are generally believed to be needed to reliably kill all life stages.

And Dr. Louis Sorkin experimented with freezing bed bugs, and said

“I had them in a freezer at -29dF (-34 C) for 4 hours and some 1st instars lived. But [in] 5 days they also died.”

(Lou is cited in our FAQ on freezing bed bugs.)

Note: news from the Bed Bug Summit is that the Packtite will soon be available in Canada, and this is good news, since it offers a reliable way to kill bed bugs in coats and other exposed items.

Edmonton has a bed bug committee which is trying to determine how extensive the city’s bed bug problems are. It is going to ask the city’s landlords to tell them. According to the CBC,

Edmonton landlords will receive a questionnaire about bedbugs and will be asked if their buildings have had bedbugs and how common they are.

Using the data from the survey, the city will then determine if the problem is getting out of hand.

According to Sandra Hamilton of Alberta Public Health, interviewed in this CBC video, the 1-2 page survey will ask landlords “how many suites they have and how many have had bed bugs.”

I am concerned about whether Edmonton landlords will self-report truthfully about the numbers of infested units they have experienced.

Maybe I am just a cynical New Yorker, but I would expect landlords to downplay the numbers.

When trying to determine “magnitude and adverse effects” of bed bugs in Toronto back in 2003 Steven W. Hwang et. al. reviewed logs of phone calls to public health, surveyed all Toronto pest control operators, and interviewed the director or supervisor of every Toronto homeless shelter (see Bed Bug Infestations in an Urban Environment).

That is certainly not the only workable method, but it seems like it avoids asking landlords to self-report conditions they may be reluctant to disclose.

Still, as Sandra Hamilton notes in the CBC video, “We need to be able to go to the Provincial government and tell them, ‘This is how bad the problem is.’ So we need to have something we can measure.”

This data has the potential to be quite valuable and I am really glad Edmonton’s bed bug committee is taking this on.

1 Yves September 23, 2010 at 9:40 am

The Daily News had today and yesterday news about the US bedbug convention – Chicago.
And it noted another nike store got closed. Why 2 nikes? and 2 abercormbie and fitches?
It seems weird…and why places with no beds like the Empire State Bldng?
NYC gov ofices? Fort LeJeune? Who is behind this?
Are they coming from that place on 8th Avenue that was all over the paper in August?
Thta was a weird story…they kicked out a US paratrooper who tried to clean out the bedbugs…This whole thing is creepy. Is it a stunt to sell more chemicals?

2 nobugsonme September 23, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Hi Yves,

It may seem strange that so many retailers (and stores which are in the same chain) seem to be coming down with bed bugs.

The fact is that bed bugs spread easily, but are hard to detect. In many cases, retailers are having stores inspected (often by canine scent detection units) in order to detect a problem before it is noticed by customers and staff.

In the case of Hollister, I believe that finding bed bugs in one store led to all other local stores in that chain and Abercrombie and Fitch being inspected (though there had been no reports).

Many large chains in NYC are probably doing the same thing, but if they do not detect bed bugs we may not hear about it.

Bed bugs started to spring back around 1999 in the US, and have been increasing ever since. Most people and public officials alike did not take it seriously until they could not ignore it anymore. So while it may seem like “suddenly bed bugs are everywhere,” that is not really the case.

And so while it is not entirely unheard of for someone to plant bed bugs, I suspect in the vast majority of cases, they’re getting around by their usual method of hitchiking on unsuspecting humans and their stuff.

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