Health department fields bed bug complaints

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Five filed against Commonwealth Lodge in last 6 months

By Marty Finley

In the past six months, the Lincoln Trail District Health Department has investigated five complaints against Commonwealth Lodge in Elizabethtown for reported sightings of bed bugs.

Four of the five complaints proved valid as bed bugs were identified, according to information obtained through an open records request filed by The News-Enterprise.

In most cases, health department inspectors found bed bugs in multiple rooms and gave hotel staff 30 days to clean the rooms and have them treated by a certified pest control expert. The staff must produce receipts verifying the treatment.

Sara Jo Best, environmental director for the health department, said the agency inspects for bed bugs within seven days after a complaint is filed. If bed bugs are found, inspectors must search rooms above, below and to each side of the impacted site until no more are found. The affected rooms are closed and prohibited from rental while cleaning and treatment is completed, she said.

Anything that cannot be cleaned or is thoroughly infested must be removed from the rooms, Best said.

The business or organization, Best said, is given a reasonable amount of time to clean and treat the site for bed bugs. In the health department’s case, 30 days is typical.

“I wish there was more we could do,” Best said.

The first complaint against Commonwealth Lodge during the six-month period came from G.C. Burkhead Elementary School’s Family Resource Center after a student, who lived at the motel, exhibited bed bug bites. Inspectors found bed bugs but were unable to inspect some rooms because occupants did not allow entry.

Best said some people use hotels as a residence and have the right to refuse the health department entry for inspection, she said. The health department has a right to search any vacant room because the hotel is required to abide by health regulations. If bed bugs are found in an occupied room, the business is required to move the occupant to another location, she said.

If a company adheres to the health department’s order and follows the steps to remove the bed bugs, it is deemed compliant and previous complaints are not held against it, Best said.

Those who willfully ignore the order are barred from renting a room known to have bed bugs until it is cleaned, and it is in jeopardy of having its hotel/motel license suspended, Best said.

An on-duty manager at Commonwealth Lodge said the business is in the process of treating for bed bugs and is complying with all orders from the health department. He declined to give his name.

Commonwealth Lodge owner Hajirazak Kamani was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

The News-Enterprise attempted to contact some of those who filed complaints against Commonwealth Lodge, but they did not return calls seeking comment.

According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, bed bugs have made a resurgence in the U.S. in recent years and can be found in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, along and under the edges of wall-to-wall carpeting, hardwood floors, moldings, baseboard cracks, behind picture frames and wall hangings, switch plates and outlets, under loose wallpaper and paneling and in clothing stored in closets and drawers. They also can be found inside clocks, phones, televisions, smoke detectors and upholstered chairs and sofas, according to the cabinet.

“You can never say a hotel can never have bed bugs because that’s impossible,” Best said. “People carry them in.”

She said the health department has dealt with bed bug issues in multiple venues, including residences, apartment complexes, schools, outreach centers and retail stores. She encourages residents to thoroughly clean and remove clutter from their homes if bed bugs are found.

The News-Enterprise in its request also asked for all complaints regarding bed bugs filed in the last six months in Hardin County. This revealed two complaints filed against Best Western Atrium Gardens in Elizabethtown this month. Both inspections produced evidence of bed bugs in multiple rooms. A manager at the hotel, who would not give her name, said the business is being compliant.

“Everything has been taken care of,” she said.

The health department also investigated a complaint at the Budget Holiday Motel in February, which identified bed bugs. Complaints against two other local hotels were ruled invalid because inspectors did not find evidence of bed bugs, according to the reports.

Best said bed bugs have become prevalent.

“This is not a unique problem for Hardin County,” she said. “This is happening throughout the entire nation.”

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.


Bed bug dos and don’ts

  • Do not pick up used furniture or mattresses/box springs from the roadside or trash containers.
  • Furniture from a rental service always should be checked at the seams and creases for bed bugs.
  • When traveling, check rooms thoroughly before setting your luggage on the floor or bed.
  • Bed bugs prefer to hide close to where they feed. However, if necessary, they will crawl several feet to obtain a blood meal. Initial infestations tend to be around beds, but the bugs eventually may become scattered throughout a room, occupying any crevice or protected location. They also can spread to adjacent rooms or apartments.

How do you get rid of bed bugs?

  • Consult a certified pest control operator.
  • If you live in an apartment building and think there are bed bugs, call your landlord about the problem. Call the local health department for more information. All apartments in a building with bed bugs need to be checked and treated. You or your landlord should call a licensed pest control company to schedule an appointment for an inspection and treatment.
  • Pick up everything in the infested room and put anything you need to keep in a zippered plastic bag. Put it in a hot, sunny place — at least 120 degrees — or colder than 32 degrees for a couple weeks.
  • Bedding and clothing need to be bagged and washed in hot water — at least 120 degrees — or thrown away.
  • When trying to clean bed bugs from carpets, vacuuming is not enough. The area must be steam cleaned at a temperature of at least 120 degrees. The carpet might need to be replaced.
  • If mattresses and box springs are badly infested, spray paint a warning sign on them or cut them beyond repair or use and seal with plastic. Contact your county solid waste agency for special pick-up for these items.
  • For less severe cases, zippered covers (available at bedding and allergy supply stores) may be used to keep bed bugs off the mattress and box springs.

Source: Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services