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November 29. 2013 9:40PM

Manchester bed bug outbreak is hard to kill

MANCHESTER — The Henry J. Pariseau high-rise on the West Side this month experienced a "flare-up" of blood-sucking bed bugs involving more than a dozen units, according to a city official.

"I think sometime last week we did the whole building, the inspections, because we were getting some reports, there seems to be a flare-up and we want to quell those as soon as we can," said Dick Dunfey, executive director of the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which manages the building.

Dunfey said 13 units were identified with bed bugs in the 100-unit high-rise, which houses elderly and disabled residents at 55 Amory St. Half of the affected units were treated for the bugs with the remaining units to be handled after Thanksgiving.

"We got reports of a few units, so we had a canine inspection of the entire building," Dunfey said.

Pest control, he said, is dealing with bed bugs at two other MHRA high-rises: eight units at the Thomas B. O'Malley Apartments, 259 Chestnut St., and 12 apartments at the Christo Kalivas Apartments, 175 Chestnut St.

"Those numbers we're treating or following up on (to ensure) that they're completely eradicated," Dunfey said.

The housing authority manages about 1,400 housing units, and Dunfey said those in high-rise buildings are more susceptible to getting bed bugs than garden-style units because people are living in closer proximity.

Susan LaBrie, whose friend lives in the Pariseau building, said MHRA deals with the problem apartment by apartment rather than treating the entire building.

"The whole building is infested," LaBrie said.

LaBrie said her friend, who didn't want to be named, "saw them coming out of the walls."

Dunfey said treating the entire building isn't how it's done.

"That would be a tremendous, exorbitant cost if you treated the whole building if you had one unit with bed bugs," he said. "Bed bug problems, they don't go away. You can't eradicate them. You can eliminate them temporarily."

Dunfey said it cost around $850 to heat treat each unit.

The MHRA spent $119,600 last fiscal year and about $230,000 the previous year, he said, adding that the housing authority hired a full-time pest control technician who's dealing with bed bugs full time.

"Some units have had repeat treatments," Dunfey said. "That's extremely common everywhere."

Tim Soucy, the city's public health director, said his office averages five to 10 calls a week from people living in triple deckers to high-rise buildings reporting suspected bed bugs.

Soucy said the type of building shouldn't necessarily increase the chances of infestation.

"Usually when you have a high rise, it's important to look at units adjacent, above and below if you're trying to do any remediation," Soucy said.

Bed bugs don't carry diseases but can lead to health problems for people who are bitten, according to Soucy.

"If you keep scratching, you have an increased risk of infection," Soucy said. "The infection is not coming from the bite itself. It's coming from the continuing scratching."

Soucy said bed bugs like to congregate in couches and mattresses because that's where they can tap humans for their blood.

Dunfey said MHRA offers to heat treat people's couches and also provides special mattress covers, but it doesn't offer free furniture replacement.

"We couldn't have a bed bug court — who gets stuff and who doesn't — because it be impossible to do that, never mind the cost," Dunfey said.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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