Bed Bugs Reported At Huntsville Housing Authority's Johnson Towers Apartment Building

AL.com
Wednesday, February 1, 2012

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - The Huntsville Housing Authority is working to contain a bed bug outbreak at its Johnson Towers senior apartment building.

Spokeswoman Wendy Reeves said two residents on different floors of the building reported a bed bug problem last week. A subsequent door-to-door inspection uncovered the tiny pests in approximately 20 of 120 apartments, Reeves said.

While maintenance crews have already sprayed those apartments, Reeves said the Housing Authority plans to treat the entire eight-story building on Seminole Drive west of downtown. Residents of affected apartments will also be given special mattress covers designed to eliminate hiding places for bed bugs.

"We have a very aggressive plan in place," Reeves said Tuesday. "We want the whole building professionally treated so we manage this effectively."

Opened in 1965, Johnson Towers is home to about 130 elderly and disabled public housing residents.

Reeves said residents will have to vacate their apartments for about six hours following the pesticide treatment. To kill any lingering bed bugs, residents will also be instructed to wash all their clothes and bedding in hot water.

Even curtains will have to be taken down and tumbled in a warm dryer, she said.

Bed bugs were nearly eradicated from this country in the mid-1900s but have made a strong resurgence due to increased international travel and resistance to available pesticides.

While not known to transmit disease, bed bugs feed on the blood of humans. Their bites can cause an allergic reaction that sometimes leads to more serious skin infections such as impetigo, ecthyma and lymphanigitis.

Mattress seams, bed frames, headboards and dresser drawers are among their favorite hiding places.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, controlling bed bugs in multi-family housing is difficult because they can easily travel between units through holes in the wall or on the bodies of residents.

Joey Harris, an entomologist with Cook's Pest Control in Decatur, said bed bugs are on the increase in North Alabama but remain a "spotty problem."

"I've been in this business for 28 years, and for 25 of those years I had never seen a bed bug," Harris said Wednesday. "The last three or four years, we're seeing them more and more frequently."

Harris said Cook's has treated bed bug infestations in homes as well as businesses, and they are as likely to be found in wealthy neighborhoods as poor ones.

"It's not a socioeconomic pest," he said.