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Apartments are bedbug hubs

Site of nearly half of complaints: records

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/8/2011 (2018 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

City apartment buildings are a hotbed for bedbug complaints, according to documents that show the pests are being reported everywhere from office buildings to personal-care homes in higher volumes.

Documents obtained through a freedom of information request reveal that close to half of all bedbug complaints in Winnipeg originate from apartment buildings. Between January 2009 and June 2011, the city received 600 bedbug complaints from apartment buildings, 180 complaints from licensed rooming houses, 119 family homes and 84 duplexes.

People's familiarity with bedbugs may be leading to more reports of their presence, an official says.

ALEX BRANDON / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

People's familiarity with bedbugs may be leading to more reports of their presence, an official says.

The city removed the addresses of the bedbug complainants, due to privacy reasons, but included the names of the streets. The largest number of repeated bedbug complaints came from apartment blocks, rooming houses and homes on Sherbrook Street, Furby Street, Maryland Street, Langside Street and Spence Street, which generated a total of 199 complaints over the two-year time period.

Officials admit some of the complaints could be "hot spots" where multiple people report an infestation of the bloodsucking pests.

The complaints data also show that over the last two years, more people have reported seeing bedbugs in public spaces -- everywhere from hotels to personal-care homes, shopping centres and even a funeral parlour. Since City of Winnipeg officials say they do not track how many of these reports are confirmed to be full-fledged infestations, the Free Press has decided not to reveal the names of the offices and businesses.

"Whenever you have a group of people getting together in various (public) locations, you increase the likelihood that someone has or has had bedbugs," said Dave Funk, provincial bedbug coalition co-chairman.

"Unknowingly, people don't realize they've brought bedbugs to another location."

Funk said the complaints data likely show some people are unwittingly taking bedbugs to public places. However, he also said the public is becoming more aware of what bedbugs look like, and people may be reporting them in higher numbers since they recognize what the bugs are.

Earlier this year, the province unveiled its bedbug strategy to tackle the spread of the pests. Funk said provincial officials do not proactively reach out to offer help to apartment blocks or dwellings that appear to have a recurring bedbug problem.

Funk said landlords who are members of the Professional Property Managers Association can access mattress covers, disposal bags, insect monitors and pamphlets at a reduced cost. If the building is a not-for-profit daycare, for example, Funk said they could access a grant program that gives them a subsidy for bedbug education and treatment.

All other queries from Manitoba's new 24-hour bedbug information line are funnelled toward the appropriate person, Funk said, which could be the city's bylaw enforcement branch if someone complains their landlord isn't doing anything about a bedbug problem. Since the hotline was unveiled in May, Funk said, they receive about 200 calls a month from concerned citizens.

Funk said there is no scientific evidence publicizing known locations of bedbug infestations would reduce their spread. He said the best way to deal with the problem is to educate people on how they can avoid taking a bedbug home with them -- shaking out their jackets, stomping their feet, turning their pockets inside out -- if they leave a place they suspect has bedbugs and what to do if they find a bug in their home or apartment.

"They can be in anyplace, they can be anywhere," said Rob MacKinnon, co-ordinator of the city's bylaw enforcement. "I don't think there's any one area so far that's immune to that type of situation."

MacKinnon said the city's database shows the bugs can literally be found everywhere. The location of infestations can change daily, he said, as bedbug problems are eradicated in one place and another infestation pops up somewhere else.

MacKinnon said the city doesn't track which complaints actually turn out to be infestations and or how the bugs may be spreading.

"Sometimes they come in bunches," he said of the complaints. "When you get several complaints (from the same location) it's a bad infestation."

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Bedbug complaints

Total number of bedbug complaints and where they came from since January 2009, according to the City of Winnipeg:

600 -- apartment

180 -- licensed rooming house

119 -- single family dwelling

84 -- duplex

73 -- residential multi-use building

72 -- row house

36 -- personal-care home

33 -- hotel

17 -- commercial space

6 -- office

5 -- warehouse building

3 -- group home

2 -- daycare

2 -- surface parking lot

2 -- library

1 -- movie theatre

1 -- school

1 -- funeral home

 

Winnipeg has received 1,306 bedbug complaints since 2009. Here's a breakdown of how many were received per year:

-- 2009: 505 complaints

-- 2010: 639 complaints

-- 2011: (as of June): 162 complaints

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