Refugees Batting Apartments' Bed Bugs
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Exterminators have been called to combat a bedbug problem at a
Northwest Side apartment complex reserved for refugees seeking
The outbreak was reported Tuesday at the Dove Tree apartments in
the 4500 block of Gardendale. Dove Tree is one of several San
Antonio complexes where refugees settle after arriving through the
United States Refugee Resettlement Program.
Catholic Charities is helping provide exterminators to spray
affected units Friday, according to a source. The organization had
no comment Tuesday night.
The pest problem has been reported to affect several
Nye Reh, from Myanmar, lives with his wife and five other relatives
in a two-bedroom unit where a spray of insect droppings covers the
corner of a mattress.
Reh said through a relative interpreting for him that he itches
throughout the day.
Damanti Biswa said she sleeps near her front door to get away from
the bugs. Tika Biswa interpreted for her, saying she's had
the problem for the past month and hadn't reported the bugs to
apartment management yet - her husband bought a can of pesticide
that has kept the bugs under control so far.
The resurgence of bedbugs has been a problem throughout the United
States, not only in apartments but also in the nicest hotels,
said Roseann Vivanco, clinical instructor at the
University of Texas Health Science Center.
Vivanco oversees the San Antonio Refugee Health Clinic, a
student-run free clinic where refugees go for checkups and
"We've seen several children come in with what appeared to be
insect bites," Vivanco said. "And talking with parents, they
confirmed they were bedbug bites. It's been a growing problem, and
they're difficult to get rid of."
Last year, the students offered a six-part presentation called
"It's a Bug's Life," which covered how to deal with fleas, roaches
and bedbugs. They plan to hold another series this summer, Vivanco
After the exterminator fumigates the units, she said, the tenants
will need to continue cleaning, wash bedsheets with hot water, use
vacuum cleaners and steam-clean the furniture - and that takes
money that a lot of them don't have.
"Bedbugs don't mean a person is dirty; they don't discriminate
between the rich or poor," Vivanco said. "There does need to be
some education, continuous cleaning, and they'll need assistance
with that. I'm glad to see that Catholic Charities has stepped up
to the plate to help out."