Thursday, September 23, 2010

Inspectors wary of bringing bedbugs home

EDMONTON - If the thought of bedbugs infiltrating your home makes your skin crawl, look on the bright side: at least you're not a health inspector.
They're the people who have to look under mattresses, rifle through drawers and peek behind headboards when someone complains of an infestation.
Then they have to go home to their families.
"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."
As the city's bedbug infestation continues to grow, so too does the inspectors' workload. Hamilton says it's only going to get bigger.
Problem is, nobody can say how big the explosion will be.
That's why Edmonton has a bedbug committee, made up of provincial and city officials.
It's getting ready to survey landlords and condo boards to try to get a handle on how bad things really are.
We know that it's a huge issue across North America, especially along the Eastern Seaboard. We also know the creatures are creeping west.
"Based on the news we're hearing in the eastern U.S. and Canada, I'd say it is exploding and it's going to explode here too," Hamilton says.
The committee will also put together simple brochures telling people how to prevent an infestation, and what to do if they get one.
Hamilton says there's lots of information available on the Internet, but it's often complicated and contradictory.
"It can be really hard for the average person to sift through it and sort out what's fact and what's fiction," she said. The new material will be aimed at third-grade level readers and have lots of illustrations, so even people with minimal English can figure it out.
No one is immune from bedbugs. Everything from five-star hotels to flophouses have reported infestations.
In fact, Hamilton says, they've even been called to University hospital, where staff were worried when patients showed up with bugs in their clothes.
But, she added, hospitals are easy to fix because they're kept meticulously clean and don't have carpets.
Meanwhile, a 300-unit seniors home on the south side was treated for an infestation when a few suites got infested.
"When this happens, we eradicate them quickly," said Susan McCarthy, spokeswoman for the Greater Edmonton Foundation, which operates the Montgomery Legion Place at 9420 92 St.
The foundation uses sniffer dogs to track down bedbugs, and when they find them, they fumigate the infested apartments, along with any adjoining suites.
"If the bedbugs are fumigated, they can move to the next apartment," she said.
"It's something that we're always going to have to be aware of from now on in Edmonton. It's permeated the entire world."

By: Bradley Skierkowski

Sourced By: Andrew Hanon, QMI Agency