Health Unit set to unveil campaign to fight bedbugs

Peggy Revell

The Northwestern Health Unit is preparing an education campaign to help in the fight against bedbugs.
“Basically, we’ve been aware of the situation like everybody else at the outset,” Dr. James Arthurs, medical officer of health for the local health unit, said about rising number of reports of bedbug infestations across Canada, the United States, and beyond.
“For right now, we feel that this educational campaign will be the best,” he remarked.
Dr. Arthurs noted bedbugs currently aren’t considered a public health hazard, adding the health unit doesn’t have the authority to inspect for them or close down places.
But in response to bedbug concerns, the local health unit has been working to gather as much information as possible on the pests, and will be compiling folders filled with information for members of the public, landlords, and housing providers.
Dr. Arthurs said they expect to have this informational package available by early December.
It will include fact sheets that cover topics such as:
•What are bedbugs, including facts and myths;
•The rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants;
•What people can do to prevent the spread of bedbugs;
•Treatment protocols for bedbugs;
•How to prepare for treatment (while the “only excellent treatment” is from professional exterminators, a residence must be prepared beforehand for this, Dr. Arthurs noted); and
•Information for landlords, property managers, and tenants on integrated pest control.
Once completed, these folders will be available at health unit offices across the district as well as online.
Depending on interest, Dr. Arthurs said the health unit also may hold community forums.
While “heaps” of information is available online, the Northwestern Health Unit is drawing its information from Toronto Public Health, which, in turn, gathered much of its information from New York City.
“So very reliable information,” Dr. Arthurs pledged.
While cities like Toronto and Winnipeg have been reporting outbreaks of bedbugs, Dr. Arthurs said when it comes to this region, the health unit had received just under a dozen calls as of this past summer compared to seven the year before.
“So it wasn’t dramatic,” he remarked. “Eleven calls are not very many when you consider all the calls that we get.
“And yet for those 11 individuals, it’s significant,” he conceded.
Dr. Arthurs also said this number may not be exact as some people may not have contacted the health unit but rather took it upon themselves to have bedbugs exterminated, or not have tried to do anything at all.
“One of the major issues is that bedbugs are considered a pest only at this point,” he explained.
“They do cause bites but the bites, for non-allergic people, are just like mosquito bites.
“They come, they itch, and they go away.”
Bedbugs also don’t spread any communicable diseases the health unit is aware of to date, he added.
“Right now, it’s not that the bedbugs are spreading things, it’s just that it makes you start itching just to talk about them a little,” Dr. Arthurs remarked.
There is provincial funding available for people with low incomes to help with the extermination costs associated with bedbugs (details will be included within the information the health unit is preparing for the public).
Meanwhile, until the information folder is available, those who have bedbugs can contact the health unit, which is compiling a list of exterminators and what to do to get rid of the pests.
Those interested in more information on bedbugs also can visit Toronto Public Health’s website at www.toronto.ca/health/