EVERYONE HAS A ROLE TO PLAY IN CONTROLLING BED BUGS
The bed bug infestation is growing rapidly and it is not going away soon. While some private and preliminary steps have been made to control these persistent creatures, a lot more needs to be done.
Bed bugs are in every public space including schools, libraries, cinemas, restaurants, hotels and public and private housing. Bed bugs are not isolated to low income communities, though they impact people on low income or people with disabilities more significantly as often they do not have the resources to protect themselves.
Health sector authorities consider the bed bug problem a public health issue, as there are physical and psychological effects for those dealing with the problem. The rashes due to the bites are itchy and can become infected. People who have dealt with bed bugs first hand frequently report a significant increase in stress, anxiety, insomnia, illness or aggravation of health conditions due to the stress of bed bugs. And for some, there are also the negative effects of chemical treatment.
The best treatment to kill bed bugs is with intense heat followed by a pesticide treatment. Heating a facility or furniture to over 140 degrees for a couple of hours is nearly 100% effective as it kills the larvae as well as bugs. The heat method is also preferable because no toxic chemicals are used. However, not every location can be treated with heat, so there needs to be a range of treatment options.
The Province of Manitoba, through the Minister of Healthy Living, Youth and Seniors has made an important bold offer to plan and fund ($800,000) a major bed bug control effort. All levels of government – federal, provincial, municipal – now need to get involved now to coordinate their response so public resources are used most effectively.
The funds are an important investment and good first step. The public needs to know where to go to get appropriate information and resources to control bed bugs in their homes and businesses. There is an underlying stigma around the issue of bed bugs which is rooted in myths, misinformation and fear.The negative stigma and lack of sound information creates a barrier for some people reporting infestations and the problem grows! So, part of the funds should go to educating and informing the public about what they can do to control bed bugs.
Last fall, the Professional Property Management Association of Manitoba and the Social Planning Council pulled a number of stakeholders together to coordinate resources and efforts to control bed bugs. At the Bed Bug Task Force table were business, government, community, social housing residents and social welfare representatives. We started to share concerns and to prescribe solutions. Now the government has convened a Coalition that is trying to bring together these various stakeholders.
Citizens need to know how to identify and report signs of bed bugs. The key to dealing with the increase in bed bug proliferation, all parties seem to agree, is through genuine collaboration. This means at all levels, from the tenant, customer, patient, client or participant; to the landlord, management or administrator; to the three levels of government; and to the public at large. Availability of plain language and clear public information is the most effective way for us all to understand our role in contributing to a provincial strategy. This also means having funds available for persons living in poverty to play their role in treatment and prevention.
Local landlords, property managers, business people in tourism and hospitality are all concerned about the problem and have started to take decisive action. Some have brought in exterminators as soon as there was an indication of infestation. Others want direction and a coordinated major approach as this will be much more effective for all people involved.
We must include all the stakeholders in the solution to the bed bug problem – residents, neighbourhood organizations, businesses, government. We will win this battle when we all do our part in controlling and managing this pesky critter.
Social Planning Council of Winnipeg Bed Bug Task Force Co-Chair
May 5, 2011