A Pest Problem: City battling bed bugs

File photo Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services Director Bobbie Bagley said the city continues battling bed bugs.

NASHUA – From hotels to apartments to condos, bed bugs continue making their way into Nashua.

“It is an issue that’s getting worse – it’s gotten worse for many years. In the last 10 years, really, we’ve seen rates that have really soared. And every year, we’re seeing more and more cases,” Nashua Division of Public Health & Community Services Health Officer and Laboratory Director Ren Beaudoin said.

Beaudoin said his office received three calls about bed bugs on Tuesday, with each case being quite different.

“On average, I get a few calls a week about bed bugs from actual tenants, and then we are asked a lot of times by agencies in the area that do client visiting, either in homes or client transport, or clients being seen in their office on how to handle bed bugs,” he said.

Beaudoin spoke about the increasing problems with bed bugs during a Substandard Living Special Committee hearing this week. He said some are ashamed of having bed bugs, but said this should not be the case.

Staff photo by Adam Urquhart An old mattress and chair are abandoned on the side of a street in Nashua. City officials warn against picking up random furniture, as this can sometimes lead to the spread of bed bugs if the items are infested.

“This is a global problem and the more comfortable we are talking about them, the more effective we’ll be at treating it,” Beaudoin said. “It’s a common bug that just happens to feed off us, but we have to treat it as an insect, and we can deal with it.”

Beaudoin and Division Director Bobbie Bagley believe educating the public is vital in the battle. Cluttered spaces provide many hiding spots for bed bugs, as they can hide in fabrics on furniture or even electrical outlets, they said.

They also ask residents to not pick up random mattresses or chairs they may find on the side of the street.

“Bed bugs can go into hiding and not feed for months, and as Ren said, once there’s a living, breathing body there, then they come out to where they can feed,” Bagley said.

“If folks can separate things out and not put mattresses on the side of the street or other furniture that people can pick up and then take to their apartments … we can kind of cut back on some of that,” she added.

Somemmay be apprehensive about reporting bed bugs for fear of the stigma attached with it – that having bugs in one’s apartment means they are dirty or that it reflects poor hygiene. Beaudoin and Bagley said this is not the case.

“Global travel became an issue and we started seeing them crop up in gate cities like Los Angeles, Boston and New York and hubs of international travel,” Beaudoin said. “We started seeing them come into those areas across the globe, and come into hotels where people were staying and get them in those gate areas and bring them home.”

Beaudoin said when traveling, it is best if people inspect their rooms for any signs of bed bugs, such as tiny specks of black dotted stains, rice grain-like specks, which are eggs, and brownish or reddish insects.

“Bed bugs are common in hotels,” Beaudoin said. “They’re not a filth pest.”

“It’s best to always do an inspection of the room when you travel anywhere and let management know so they can schedule an effective treatment of that room,” he added.

After checking into the hotel room, Beaudoin said guests should not put their luggage down on the bed, or drop it on the carpet. In inspecting rooms, guests can lift up the mattress and sheets and look behind the bed board.

“The safest place to put bags right off the bat is the tub,” Beaudoin said.

However, people don’t have to be traveling and staying in different hotels to come in contact with bed bugs. The bugs need physical contact to spread, as they can’t just jump or fly onto a person or their belongings. People who visit clients homes for work or transport people in their vehicles could also run the risk of bringing the bugs back home with them at the end of the work day.

“If you don’t deal with them until you’re at that critical mass point, it becomes a reactive problem, which if not effectively treated, can be spread around and that creates other problems,” Beaudoin said.

Beaudoin said state legislation has been put into place to assist landlords and tenants in addressing and treating bed bug infestations in rental properties, with the hope that this bill will address and treat infestations in a more timely manner.

The current New Hampshire bed bug law establishes that once a tenant notifies the landlord of the assumed infestation, that the landlord then has seven days to investigate and determine if, in fact, an infestation is present, and take the reasonable measures to remediate the issue. The tenant must also grant their landlord emergency access to their apartment within 72 hours after notifying them. If the tenant denies a landlord access to their unit, or if a landlord fails to investigate and remediate the issue, then both situations would be in violation.

In either case, the opposing party can appeal to the Nashua District Court.

“The way that the bed bug law is made in the state, it was a state level action to deal with a problem that’s getting worse,” Beaudoin said. So, I believe the intention of the bed bug law was to expedite a process that used to take a little bit of time.”

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.