Garron Bradish, the county’s environmental health officer, complains frequently about bed bugs.
He has advice to give callers, but there is nothing he can do to force landlords to take action against a bedbug infestation.
“Actually, they are not seen as a public health threat because they do not spread diseases,” he said. “You’re more of a nuisance.”
Bedbugs are tiny insects, less than a fifth of an inch, that live on human blood, hide in dark crevices, and can go without food for up to a year while they lay eggs and increase their numbers.
They are difficult to spot because they don’t like light, but clues to their presence can be found in bites that are left on humans or animals.
According to experts, the presence of bed bugs has nothing to do with cleanliness. They find their way into an apartment through furniture, clothing or luggage. Bedbugs can survive in cats, dogs, or birds, but prefer a human host.
An inspector from the district’s environmental health department was one of several supervisory authorities who examined the conditions in Regina Mathis’ apartment in September. Although there were plenty of cockroaches in the apartment, no bugs were found, which wasn’t surprising, Bradish said. This is because bed bugs often don’t come out in daylight.
Once bugs have invaded an apartment complex, they are difficult to eradicate without treating all of the units.
“Bed bugs migrate through walls, ducts, or outlets,” Bradish said. “You can move from apartment to apartment. They came to the Towers in Waynesville years ago. “
In this case, the infestation has been treated and the problem resolved, he added.
While mattresses require tossing, in some cases bedbugs can be killed by heat treatment. Furniture cushions can be placed in black trash bags and left in the sun or in a trunk, for example, and clothes can be washed in hot water and placed in a hot dryer.
But the best way to make sure they’re gone is by using a chemical spray, Bradish said.
Kevin Hathorne, technical director at Terminix Service in Columbia, South Carolina, said that each bug situation is different and control strategies depend on the severity of the problem.
“Bedbugs don’t care if a house is dirty or clean,” he said. “If there is a lot of clutter, the situation will get significantly worse and it will be much harder to keep control. It helps tremendously in getting rid of clutter and tidying up. “
Bedbugs are small and extremely shallow, which means they can get into places like microwave or television circuits or electronics – places that are not traditionally associated with an infestation.
When a home is treated, items such as electronics, lamps, computers, and other items must be cleaned or specially treated to reduce the risk of re-infestation.
If the treatment area is adjacent to another dwelling, units on either side of the infested unit will need to be treated, Hathorne warned, as bedbugs commonly use wall cavities, electrical wiring and pipes to get between apartments.
The most expensive but permanent solution is fumigation, which involves putting a tent over the entire building, spraying it and leaving it empty for three days.
Heat treatment, where a propane or electrically powered unit pumps heat into a house, is effective, he said. Because the heat generators have to stay outside, this option does not always work on the upper floors and the units cannot be placed in a hallway.
In a situation like a multi-story apartment complex with multiple units, a multi-faceted approach would likely be required and all tenants would definitely have to agree to meet the requirements.
“If a resident fails to clean and wash the bedding, over time it can cause the bed bugs to spread again and the situation to recur,” Hathorne said.
Spray treatment would likely be tailored to the level of infestation in each unit, with prevention methods chosen for units that are not yet infested.
It is difficult to get bedbugs out of an apartment complex, Hathorne said.
“It’s a difficult situation, especially when there are no laws that hold people accountable,” he said. “The longer it takes, the worse the infestation becomes.
“Even if you spend the money treating your unit, units around you can be a source of infestation. This is not a good situation. “