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Bed bugs still here
Unlikely pests will ever go away completely: health officer

Heather Lange
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bed bugs are here to stay, according to Duane Fleming, NWT's chief environmental health officer.

NNSL photo/graphic

Duane Fleming, chief environmental health officer for the NWT, is seen here in December 2010 with an enlarged photo of a bed bug. - NNSL file photo

The biting bugs haven't grown in numbers since last December's press conference by the Department of Health and Social Services, warning residents of three NWT communities, including Yellowknife, about bed bug infestations.

"It is not realistic to think that we will be bed-bug free. It is just a fact of life now a days," said Fleming.

In December, Fleming would not specify what two apartment buildings in the city had bed bugs, but confirmed the buildings had an infestation in one unit each.

Fleming said for NWT communities, having some cases of bed bugs will continue to be part of the picture.

"There is some activity and I'm sure there always will be. Even though we eradicate infestations, people will always be moving here and we will be having new bed bugs coming in. It's still a growing problem worldwide," said Fleming.

Fleming said the problem has become much more commonplace around the world not only because of the increased amount of travellers, but possibly because the banning of certain types of pesticides.

"We can't say for sure, but it is believed that because of some of the pesticides that used to be used 20, 30, 40 years ago are banned and can no longer be used, the current ones are not as effective as the older ones are," said Fleming.

The extent of the bed bug problem may never be known because there is no legal requirement for landlords to report infestations.

"We encourage landlords and the public to report them to us, but as far as naming communities and buildings and such, I won't do it because there is some stigma attached to it," said Fleming.

Julie Green, YWCA Yellowknife director of community relations said the YWCA-run Rockhill apartments have never had bed bugs, mainly due to their diligence.

"Our involvement is in preventing them from coming to Rockhill and we have been successful at that.

We go over the furniture that is donated very carefully to make sure the bed bugs are not there and that is the most common place you would see them," said Green.

"We also inspect the units from time to time to see if the bed bugs are there and, up to this point, we haven't found any."

Bed bugs are brown and flat, about the size of an apple seed. They can't jump or fly, but like to hide in tiny crevasses like box springs and usually only come out at night. They feed on blood of animals and birds but prefer to bite and feed on people and are not known to spread human disease.

Bed bug bites look similar to those of mosquitoes, creating an irritation or inflammation on the skin. Some people may never know they are bitten because people react in different ways and may have no reaction to a bed bug bite. Scratching a bite can result in infection.

There is no treatment for bed bug bites and they will go away by themselves, yet it is suggested to use a cream or antihistamine if there is itchiness.

Bed bugs can be difficult to get rid of but on the Department of Health and Social Services website, it recommends applying extreme heat and extreme cold such as steam cleaning, washing and drying anything infected, freezing any clothing or furniture for three days at -15 C among many other techniques to get rid of the pests.

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