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