Bed Bugs Problem In Government-Run Housing

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A world-wide problem is now causing an infestation Central Nebraska government-run housing can't seem to get rid of.

Officials say 5% of Hall County Housing Authority and Section 8 residents are infested with bed bugs. It's been a problem for the past three years.

Since Alicia Lunz moved into government housing in Grand Island, so have unwanted visitors. She says she's had bed bugs three times.

"The cat actually found the first one I had about a year ago," she said. "I've kind of gotten it under control the minute I found one, but other people, they're infested."

Lunz says the spray being used to kill the bugs isn't working.

"They need to do every apartment the same day, maybe vacate the apartment building for four or five hours and just do it all," she said.

Mike Meents is attempting to kill the bugs with a combination of vacuuming, two different chemical sprays, dusting outlets, and using mattress covers.

"Normally it will have quite a knock down on them, but with a multi-unit complex you do have to come back," he said.

Meents, owner of MDM Pest & Termite Control has been coming back, usually every two weeks for six months.

Housing Authority officials say it's not economical for them to treat the whole building because people tend to go back to that same hotel room or friends house, or bring that same piece of furniture in that brought in the bed bugs.

That's why officials aren't using a more expensive heat treatment, which would cost $1,000 per apartment. Meents says his method costs about five times less.

"You can imagine in a large complex, if they're hitching a ride on your clothes and you're sitting down next to somebody or you're putting your laundry in a laundry room, that does provide opportunities for the bed bugs to move from on person to another," said Rick Ruzicka, executive director for the Hall County Housing Authority.

Ruzicka says his office is focusing on educating residents - telling them to report a problem, because many don't.

"If people don't cooperate with the things that they need to do, then I don't care how good your treatment program is, you're not going to stop them," he said.

Ruzicka says that's half of the problem. He also says bed bugs are hard to get rid of partly because they can hibernate and go a year without feeding.

Until then the bed bugs are gone, Lunz says she'll continue to spend money on bed bug bombs and laundry. With no income, it's money she doesn't have.

"I really have no where to go right now, so I have to deal with it," she said.

Meents says he's seen bed bug problems throughout the region - not just in government-run housing.