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Officials explain bed bug issue Explain: Bed bugs reproduce quickly.

Byline: pete spitler pspitler@localsouthernnews.com

The issue of bed bugs in Perry County Housing Authority units has been featured prominently in local news reports lately, and the Du Quoin Call sat down with PCHA Executive Director Stephanie Hubler and Board of Directors Chairman Guy Alongi on Thursday to learn more about the circumstances behind the issue.

"Years ago, as bed bugs were making their comeback, we found a case in one of our housing units," Hubler said. "It has not been recent, it has been years ago. At least six years ago, I would say.

"We are continually treating cases as they arise and as we know about them."

Hubler noted hotels, libraries and other public places that have been shut down and treated because of bed bugs.

She used the example of someone trying on a coat at a chain store and possibly contracting them.

"Nothing against the chain stores or that facility, if someone has them, if they know they have them or not, thats how theyre spread and transported," she said.

Bed bugs, which feed on human blood, prefer warm habitats such as houses and near or inside beds or bedding, hence their nickname.

The bugs themselves are light brown to reddish-brown and are oval shaped with no hind wings.

The pesticide DDT, first available for public sale in 1945, proved to be an effective bed bug controller. But DDTs eventual ban in the United States in the 1970s helped contribute to the pests comeback.

"I feel a lot of people are embarrassed to report them or for people to know," Hubler said. "Not just our tenants, but the general public as a whole."

"Its not a clean/dirty situation," Alongi said. "You could be the most cleanest person traveling to Chicago and stay at a hotel and bring bed bugs home with you."

Hubler said PCHAs housing stock, which consists of 343 units, was constructed from 1954 through the early 1980s.

"Perry County Housing is one of the few housing authorities I know that is proactive that goes looking for them," she said.

Fighting the pests is made difficult due to the bugs quick reproductive cycle.

"Their incubation period is quick," Hubler said. "They multiply rapidly. So by the time that theyre getting large enough for some of our elderly tenants to see, theyre thoroughly infested and could very well possibly spread them elsewhere.

"While it appears this is a recent outbreak for the housing authority, we have taken a more proactive approach for the good of everybody."

Hubler was asked what staff protocols were in place to avoid spreading bed bugs around.

"As it has not really been that prominent of an issue as of yet, were developing more and more protocols all the time," she said.

Alongi told the Call what he believes led up to the issue being reported on in December.

"Stephanie called me and said that we had an employee that had taken bed bugs home," Alongi said. "Stephanie and I met with two union representatives and that was accurately reported.

"During that meeting, it was evident that the employee did take bed bugs home from the housing authority and it was also evident that the housing authority didnt have a policy in place to assist the employees to restrict them from taking them home."

Alongi said he didnt think there was any housing authority in the state that had a written policy and deferred to Hubler for confirmation.

"One county has a pest policy, it was written more for roaches," she said. "But they eliminated, I believe if memory serves, they have removed the term "roaches" and have left it open to include general pests."

Huber said PCHA has made accomodations for its employees to deal with the bed bugs.

"What we have agreed upon is we have provided the employees with a washer and dryer so they can wash their clothes before they go home," she said. "We have more of the disposable suits because a lot of housing authorities dont allow their maintenance to help with furniture removal if a tenant chooses to get rid of their furniture or they will require the tenant to wrap their furniture in plastic."

Hubler stated that PCHA has a lot of elderly people "with no one else to help them" when furniture needs moved.

"So then we invested in disposable suits to protect the maintenance employees," she said.

Alongi said the work day ends at 4 p.m., with maintenance employees - PCHA employs six according to Hubler - being allowed to come in at 3:30 p.m. to shower and wash their clothing.

"The drying is what is the most important," Hubler said. "Its not a clean/dirty thing - our maintenance people have augered sewer lines, repaired stoves, their clothes need washed anyway - but its the heat thats going to kill the bed bugs."

Alongi said he feels the PCHA administration has now given its employees every opportunity to avoid them taking home bed bugs by allowing the washing/drying process to happen.

"The moving in and out of furniture of a tenant is really not a responsibility of the housing authority," Hubler said. "We try to go the extra mile in an effort to help keep doing that, especially for our elderly people who dont have a next of kin living even in the city limits."

As PCHA is backed by federal funding, Hubler was asked if the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had any input on the bed bug issue.

"HUDs guidelines are strictly for us to provide for the tenants," she said. "And we do. We treat their apartments, but we have to know about (bed bugs) first.

"Were not interested in representing the housing authority as a high-rise that has a problem. Were interested in representing the housing authority and the high-rise as if you have a problem, were trying to solve it."

Alongi said it is a detriment to the housing authority to have public knowledge of bed bugs in its units as PCHA is trying to rent public housing units.

"We have a man that sprays for everything but bed bugs and we call him to come once a month," Hubler said. "And the tenants call to get on the spray list."

Hubler added that bed bug treatment is handled through Enviro-Tech.

"Bed bugs, because of how quickly they multiply, if you call and its a different company that we use to treat for bed bugs and we verify that you have bed bugs, its usually within a week that we can get you treated," she said.

Hubler was asked how the PCHA hopes to combat the problem moving forward.

"Were going to continue talking to our tenants about them and were going to continue encouraging them to spray and keep them at bay," she said.
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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Article Type:Interview
Date:Jan 19, 2018
Words:1146
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