Yikes! Bed Bugs Invade DC Health Offices
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Bed bugs have infested the vital statistics department of the
D.C. Department of Health (DOH), according to emails obtained by
The Washington Times that show DOH officials have been slow to
eradicate the problem.
The blood-sucking insects, found at the agency's North Capitol
Street offices, first surfaced last Thursday, according to
representatives of the American Federation of Government Employees
(AFGE) Local 383, which represents DOH workers.
"On three separate occasions, three different employees have
spotted the bugs," wrote an employee from vital statistics on
Monday to Timothy Traylor, president of the local. "Two instances
at the front intake counters and one instance of the bugs on the
employees jacket. We have contacted our management, who did reach
out to the buildings owners and contacted DOH's Rodent Control
division but it doesn't appear that anyone is taking this issue
Bed bugs, also known as Cimex lectularius, are small, brown
insects less than a half inch in length that feed on the blood of
their host. While they are not known to carry disease, they spread
easily and can cause skin irritations and itchy rashes. They often
are found in mattresses and boxsprings and in recent years have
been a scourge for the hotel industry.
The Office of Risk Management is responsible for health and safety
issues for the D.C. government, and union bylaws specify that
employees "shall not be required to work in dangerous conditions
until conditions have been removed, remedied or rendered reasonably
safe or adequate protection provided for the condition
On Tuesday, the emails show, AFGE representatives still had not
received any word from District officials about what was being done
to exterminate bed bugs at the DOH offices.
By Wednesday, Earl H Murphy Jr., labor relations advisor at DOH
confirmed "the possible bed bug problem located in our Vital
Records Office has been brought to my attention," according to a
widely distributed and "high priority" email obtained by The
"Management has initiated action to have an extermination company
look into and provide the necessary service to eliminate the
problem. It is important to know that while they are pests, bed
bugs are not life threatening."
Mr. Murphy alerted DOH risk manager Peter Luciano, the emails
state, and assured union representatives that Mr. Luciano was
"working with appropriate authorities to address the issue." He
also asked a rodent control program manager with the D.C.
Department of the Environment to counsel the workforce on problems
and precautions associated with bed bugs.
"There are many ways the bed bugs could have arrived in the Vital
Records area," Mr. Murphy wrote. "Employees and members of the
public may have brought the bed bugs into the workplace on their
garments. People being served at the counter may have brought them
in when requesting assistance with records. Please be advised that
the Department of Health takes this problem seriously and will move
to eliminate the it.
"However, we are unable to close the facility or relocate
employees. Our employees will be advised on what precautions they
Dr. John Davies-Cole, state epidemiologist, was scheduled to meet
with vital records staff on Thursday, though it is unclear what
transpired at that meeting.
DOH employees told The Times that as of late Thursday afternoon -
a week after the problem surfaced - bed bugs were still being
observed at the agency's North Capitol Street offices.