James Yanke believes the stress alone caused by a bed bug infestations is enough to be a significant health hazard.
The president of the tenants’ association at Spence Court, where about 15 units have been confirmed to be infested with bed bugs earlier this week, said knowing the problem exists can be debilitating.
“People can’t sleep, they can’t go to their neighbours, they’re stressed because they can’t do things. You can’t walk by someone or go in a common room to sit because you’re afraid you’re going to get bed bugs,” Yanke said on Tuesday after an open meeting with officials from Thunder Bay Housing.
“When you have someone who’s 85 or 90 and they get bit by a bug they think it’s a bed bug right away and all of the sudden they’re afraid to go to sleep and they’re sleeping in their chairs or on cots.”
The outbreak at the Amelia Street building, which comes on the heels of a previous episode in December that turned up bugs in 22 other apartments, is spread throughout the entire 163 unit building.
Ken Ranta, director of housing operations with Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration board, acknowledged the fight against bed bugs has been ongoing.
“Over the past number of months we have been dealing with concerns where bed bugs have been noticed in certain units,” Ranta said.
“We have done a previous top-to-bottom all unit inspection of the building with one of our pest control officers to determine the scope of the project and did an initial treatment before Christmas time.”
A treatment plan will begin on Wednesday after another thorough inspection was conducted earlier this week.
Ranta and other members of the property management team advised residents on how to prevent bed bug infestation, most notably consistent vacuuming of carpets.
Still, he said full extermination is extremely difficult when people are visiting and gathering socially in different places around the building.
“Once they take hold it’s a challenge to try to eradicate them completely,” Ranta said.
“We hope we get it all the first time but the reality is that it’s sometimes a multiple treatment process.”
While Yanke appreciates the efforts made to eradicate the pests, he said there should be a more open dialogue to let residents know measures are being taken.
He said the problem is too challenging to control.
“Housing is doing their best, I agree with them. You can only do so much in a short period of time,” Yanke said.
“Our problem was we didn’t have enough information fast enough when it was happening.”