Commissioners scratch for answer to bed bug problem – Salina Journal

By Jean Kozubowski Salina Journal

Bed bugs.

Just the thought makes some people itch.

They bite, and the bites can form red, itchy welts. Scratch a bite enough and it can become infected.

Bed bugs are classified as a public health pest. However, Saline County Health Department Director Jason Tiller told county commissioners Tuesday that since bed bugs dont spread disease, they are not considered a public health threat.

Bed bugs are small as small as a quarter of an inch reddish-brown, disc-shaped bugs that often hide in fabrics, along seams. You might not see them, but you might see small black specks that are evidence that bed bugs are around.

You can bring them home from hotels and motels, public transportation, theater seats or friends homes, Tiller said. The most frequent cause of infestation is used furniture and second-hand clothes and toys, he said.

At last week's county commission meeting, Larry Mattison, of New Cambria, told county commissioners he had 10 to 12 cases of bed bugs in his rentals in the past year. He was frustrated, he said, because when people move to another house or apartment, they just move the bed bugs with them.

He left a mattress on the curb with a note warning people not to take it because it was infested, and someone took it, he told commissioners Tuesday.

As long as its not treated, its just going to get worse, Mattison said. Right now, its all falling on the landlords. There must be a way to track them.

Problem worsening

Treating an infestation costs $700 to $1,500, Mattison said.

A couple of local exterminators agree with Mattison.

Jason Hutchinson, of Smolan, representing World Pet Control and Sunflower Services, attended Tuesdays commission meeting. She said the bed bug problem keeps getting worse.

Right now, its mushroomed, Hutchinson said. It has been exponential in its growth.

Its getting progressively worse, said Mark Hassman, of Hassman Termite and Pest Control, by phone. Some landlords are getting hit hard.

Eleven years ago, he said, he hadnt seen any bed bugs for decades. Now, Hassman said, he sees them several times a day.

The consensus was there are no easy answers.

No ordinances

Tiller said he searched for and could not find any county, city or state ordinances concerning bed bugs, except for two from the Department of Agriculture. He couldnt find much searching other states laws; some didnt mention bed bugs.

What role do we have in this? asked Commission Chairman Monte Shadwick.

Cleanliness doesnt help, Tiller said; prevention is important.

Education is key

Public education is better at stopping or slowing the spread of bed bugs, Tiller said. He has posted information and links to websites for the Centers for Disease Control, Environmental Protection Agency and Kansas Department of Health and Environment on the county health departments website,

He said it's important that when people travel, they use a flashlight to search the upholstery and bedding, and use a soft-side suitcase. When they return home, they should put the suitcase and all of their clothes in a hot clothes dryer for at least 20 minutes. Heat kills the bugs.

Second-hand clothes and toys should receive the same dryer treatment.

Public education seems to be the next step, Shadwick said. We can continue to look and see whats out there.

Tiller said he would talk with city officials about getting information out to the public, perhaps with monthly utility bills.

Commissioner Bob Vidricksen summed up the feeling in the room: Ten years ago you didnt hear much about this. Its got me spooked pretty good.

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Commissioners scratch for answer to bed bug problem - Salina Journal

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