Tag Archives: Cape Cod

Bedbugs Cause Concern On Cape Cod

7 Nov

11/7/2011 Bedbugs Cause Concern On Cape Cod: Falmouth Housing Officials Take Measures After Bugs Found In Senior Housing

They hide during the day, only to emerge when you fall asleep, so they can suck your blood under the cover of darkness.

“There’s sort of a boogeyman effect to them, because they come and feed on you while you’re sleeping,” said Thomas Lacey, executive director of the Falmouth Housing Authority, about bedbugs, which were found at the Harborview Apartments on Scranton Avenue about three weeks ago.

The housing authority immediately took corrective measures after residents and building staff discovered the parasites in the laundry room and at least two units in the building that’s home to elderly and disabled residents, Lacey said.

Last week, one of the two units was successfully treated, and dogs trained to track bedbugs found none outside the other affected unit, which is also scheduled for treatment, he added.

As the resurgence of bedbugs continues to leave a trail of itchy bites

across the country, the scourge is beginning to affect public housing on Cape Cod.

While few infestations have been reported, officials across the region are preparing for what some see as inevitable: the need to rid their buildings of the bugs.

“It’s like a bad horror flick,” said Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist at Harvard University’s School of Public Health.

Some of the former remedies for bedbugs were nightmarish. The early 1950s, for instance, brought forth an era where strong insecticides, such as DDT, were widely sold at low prices and used in households on a regular basis, Pollack said.

“We know now that … wasn’t such a good idea,” Pollack said, referring to the practice’s tendency to leave lingering, dangerous chemicals for people to inhale.

In the past three years or so, the prevalence of these pests has grown from barely noticeable to full-blown, especially in multi-family homes and hotel rooms.

“It’s just everywhere; the Cape is no exception,” said Barbara Thurston, Bourne Housing Authority executive director.

Thurston experienced the problem firsthand in early spring when four units at the Continental Apartments, public housing for elderly residents in Buzzards Bay, became infested. The housing authority shelled out $250 per hour for a dog to find the bugs and then $1,000 per unit to eradicate them, Thurston said.

The pricey extermination method used at the Continental Apartments is a non-toxic one that heats affected rooms to about 140 degrees, said Sandy Rubenstein, who owns Pure Heat, a company that provides this service. The heat kills all bedbugs and eggs without using chemicals, Rubenstein said. Chemical treatments also remain a popular method for eradicating the bugs.

Bedbugs typically use humans as vehicles to travel, and they reproduce wherever they land, said Pollack. They can crawl into clothing or suitcases left unattended in an infested room and find a new home in a mattress, couch or other places where they might find something on which to feed. Their methods of spreading makes places like hotels and apartment buildings especially vulnerable to the species’ proliferation.

“We are preparing in case it does happen,” said Sandee Perry, executive director of the Barnstable Housing Authority.

“(Bedbugs) are around when you have a lot of people,” Perry said. “Unfortunately, it’s inevitable.”

Staying in front of the problem, Perry is in contact with other housing authority directors who have dealt with infestations and sends her employees to training sessions that teach them how to identify the pesky insects, find where the bugs came from, and educate residents on how to keep them from spreading.

While the small, flat, reddish-brown creatures are more prevalent than in past years, Pollack said hysteria over bedbugs has caused many people who seek out his pest-identifying business, IdentifyUs LLC, to show him samples of things like table lint, convinced they are bedbugs.

“It’s something (on which) we just need to educate ourselves to deal with in a rational way,” Pollack said. “In many cases, they’ve already spent $5,000 or more to treat their home” before discovering it isn’t infested.

Pollack also stressed that, contrary to some social stigmas that only dirty or dilapidated homes become infested, bedbugs don’t discriminate between victims.

“Bedbugs don’t care how thick your wallet is … how clean your house is, or how much you shower,” he said.

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When Bedbugs Create Extreme Anxiety

8 Oct

10/8/2011 When Bedbugs Create Extreme Anxiety

Having a case of bedbugs can cause people to feel so desperate they make irrational decisions that can cost them more than just money.

Sandy Rubenstein, a bedbug buster in Yarmouth Port, Mass., says she’s seen a woman washing herself with an ointment intended for horses, people sleeping in mosquito nets, and wrapping their beds in plastic and double-sided tape. She watched as folks threw out everything they owned and tried using hamsters as deterrents, hoping the bugs would bite the rodents instead of them.

When you’re on the outside looking in, it’s hard to imagine why people would spray themselves with poisonous pesticides. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an elderly woman in North Carolina died after using large amounts of pesticides and coating her body with bug spray and flea powder. More than 100 people have made themselves sick using pesticides to kill bedbugs. Some people have been so anxious to get rid of bedbugs, they burned their houses down. It may take weeks or months to get rid of the pestilence, but victims say the psychological effects of the ordeal can last a lifetime.

“You can kill the bugs in people’s beds, but you can’t kill the bugs in people’s heads,” says Rubenstein, who started the company PureHeat after spending 18 months (and $40,000)battling between 2007 and 2008. “It’s a paranoia that stays for life. You never get over having bedbugs.”

Annie Lynsen of Silver Spring, Md., has a current case of bedbugs in her apartment, and she’s doing her best to cope. She discovered the bedbugs after spending weeks thinking she and her husband were being bitten by mosquitos. Then, in mid-September, she saw a bedbug crawling up the mattress.

Sandy Rubenstein of Cape Cod, Mass. spent $40,000 trying to get rid of her bedbugs and is still haunted by them.

The apartment is in disarray while the couple waits for the exterminator to come every two weeks. They’ve laundered and bagged their clothes, pulled furniture two feet from walls and live in chaos. They can’t visit friends, can’t have guests, and feel nervous they’ll miss celebrating Thanksgiving with relatives.

“I know there are bedbugs in my bed, and I have to sleep there anyway because I don’t want to spread them elsewhere. That’s really the horrifying part,” says the 31-year-old marketer. “We have sleepless nights and nightmares. I feel like this is the night something is going to come out and bite me and I don’t know what’s going to happen to me in the next eight hours.”

Lynsen thought she did everything possible to avoid bedbugs, including encasing the mattress in a bedbug-proof cover, and keeping her luggage off the floor in hotel rooms while traveling this summer. But she acknowledges she forgot about the box spring, where she found an infestation.

“We’re better now than when we first discovered them,” she says. “We couldn’t shake the feeling of being unclean and having this idea of things under the bed trying to get us. Now, I’m stronger because I know something is being done.”

Feelings of being out of control are what makes people suffer most, says Myrtle Means, a clinical psychologist with offices in the Detroit area.

“That causes the greatest distress,” she says. “Don’t focus on the what ifs, focus on what is. ‘I have bedbugs. What do I do to get rid of bedbugs? I can call an exterminator.’ You begin to feel helpless and hopeless and like the situation is unmanageable. Bedbugs are manageable.”

After she instructs clients to call an exterminator, she suggest they identify what is causing the greatest amounts of stress and anxiety such as not having the money to handle the situation, possibly having to move or throwing away their belongings. She also suggests reading the book, “Anxiety, Phobias and Panic,” and trying relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and imagery, imaging themselves in a calming place such as on a beach or lying in a hammock.

Although she sees bedbugs daily, Rubenstein manages her own paranoia by being extra cautious. She tosses her clothes in the dryer when arriving home, pulls back the sheets and headboards in hotel rooms, and never puts her luggage on the floor. She warns people to stop bringing home used furniture unless it’s from a reputable dealer and certainly avoid taking items from a roadside. Check on elderly friends and relatives, who may be unaware of bedbugs. Taking precautions, she says, are much better than dealing with bedbugs.

“Your bed is your sanctuary; it’s where you go to relax,” she says. “When you get them, you think they are crawling on you all the time. You wonder where they are hiding and you can’t relax. It makes people suffer on their jobs and in their personal lives.”

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