City paramedics want locations that have been treated for bedbug infestations publicly disclosed in the same way the city publicizes restaurant health violations and city police reveal the location of indoor marijuana grow operations.

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‘You don’t want to create hysteria, but there has to be a balanced public response’ -- Chris Broughton

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

‘You don’t want to create hysteria, but there has to be a balanced public response’ -- Chris Broughton

City paramedics want locations that have been treated for bedbug infestations publicly disclosed in the same way the city publicizes restaurant health violations and city police reveal the location of indoor marijuana grow operations.

On Tuesday, Chris Broughton, president of Manitoba Government and General Employees Union Local 911, which represents Winnipeg paramedics, the bedbug scourge is a growing health risk to emergency personnel and the general public.

"You don't want to create hysteria, but there has to be a balanced public response," Broughton said. "It's also a dicey subject, especially when you start getting into personal health information."

But the risk of people unknowingly spreading the bedbugs outweighs privacy concerns, he added.

"What we need is for people to disclose it to us," he said.

He said the city currently publicizes restaurants that have been forced to close temporarily because of insanitary conditions on a City of Winnipeg web page as a public service.

In the same vein, Winnipeg police use a website to disclose locations where indoor marijuana grow operations have been uncovered. Police say conditions in the house caused by the grow-ops, such as mould spores, could be injurious or dangerous to public health.

The same could be done with buildings that have been treated for bedbugs, Broughton said, so people are more aware of their surroundings.

Plus, it would also give emergency workers a better idea of precautions they need to take, he said.

"We think government needs to take a stronger approach on these issues," Broughton said. "The bedbugs are exploding in our city. No one wants to take their work home with them."

Health officials are currently putting together a province-wide response plan to deal with the bedbug invasion, Premier Greg Selinger said Monday. It will include a public awareness campaign and new ways to kill the pests.

Broughton added there has only been a handful of instances where paramedics have spotted bedbugs on their equipment after treating a patient. That equipment and clothing had to be decontaminated before being used again.

Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, said several firefighters have also been bitten by bedbugs during the course of their work.

"It's become another hazard of the job that we're being exposed," Forrest said. "All you can do is educate people to minimize the risk, because it really doesn't matter where you go, a movie theatre or restaurant or hotel, you can be exposed. All it takes is one person to bring in a couple of bedbugs and increase the risk."

City police have also said they're also worried about unwittingly picking up bedbugs on calls. A handful of WPS lockers and cruiser cars have been fumigated after single bedbugs were spotted.

"It just boils down to what we're facing in any emergency service... you're going into a variety of different environments," Winnipeg Police Association president Mike Sutherland said in an earlier interview. "These insects are relatively pernicious, and hey, they do like to travel and they spread easily."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca