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May 13, 2010 8:16 PM by Andy Koen

Local couple says bed bug problem "has been hell"

A local couple says that their Colorado Springs apartment became infected with bed bugs last month and that the days since have been a living hell.

They asked only to be identified as Rick and Tina and live in the Copperstone Apartments in Central Colorado Springs. 

Rick says the bug bites first showed up in early April month ago, but didn't realize what they were.

"It was happening very seldomly, so we thought it was just spiders," Rick said. "So, we let it go. Two weeks later it really started spreading."

Since then, their lives, like their furniture have been turned upside down.  Frequent visits by exterminators have left their belongings strewn.  Trash bags of laundry are piled up on the kitchen floor.

The unexpected costs for hotel and laundry bills, new pillows and furniture have crippled their cash flow.  But there's an emotional toll as well.

"Honestly, it makes us feel like outcast because the neighbors look at us and it's like we're contagious or something," Rick said.

"It's been hell, honestly," said Tina who has nightmares about the bugs. "One thing I think about is that there was a crack in hell and these creatures came out."

A survey of Pest Control Operators from June of 2009 suggests that bed bugs are a much greater problem in Colorado than they were five years ago.  

In fact, local pest control companies say calls for bed bugs in Colorado Springs have jumped 70 percent in the last decade.

The treatments are costly and require multiple visits.

Apartment Manager Doug Nelson says they have acted quickly to curtail the infestation.

"They've been out here since we were notified of the situation, we've actually had a couple of inspections and they've actually been out here to treat for it and they're taking care of the problem very well," Nelson said.

He says he is doing all he can for Rick and Tina, but they wish he'd do more.

"I want people to know that they can't just do a half-hearted job of treating this," Tina said.  "It needs to be done the right way, that's the only way you can get rid of this problem."

Bed bugs aren't considered a public health hazard, but rather a nuisance.

Infestations should first be reported to an apartment manager and if the issue isn't handled then it should be reported to code enforcement.

Travelers who are concerned about bed bugs can follow these suggestsions from MSNBC:

  • Peel back the bed sheets and check the mattress, running your fingers along the upper and lower seams. Make sure to check the mattress tag, bed bugs often hide there.
  • Experts recommend removing and examining the headboard if possible. Check for tiny black spots (excrement) that are smaller than poppy seeds. You may also see translucent light brown skins or, in the case of an infestation- live bugs.
  • Check the bedside table. Look for signs of bed bugs in the drawers and along the wall on the side of the bed that is less likely to be disturbed by cleaning staff and guests. 
  • You may want to elevate suitcases and keep them off the floor, like on a luggage stand.
  • If you see powder in the drawers or on the headboard, it is likely that the room has already been treated for bed bugs by an exterminator.
  • If bed bugs are detected, travelers should request for another room. Be sure to inform hotel management.
  • Just moving to a different room may not be the total answer. You should repeat the thorough inspection of any new or different room you are offered.
  • When you pack to leave, inspect your luggage carefully first, and inspect every item as you pack to help detect any bugs or their signs. Laundering most cloth items with typical hot water and detergent followed by drying on low heat for at least 20 minutes (or standard dry cleaning) should kill all bed bugs in or on such items. Sealing freshly-laundered items inside a plastic bag should help keep any more bed bugs from getting in those items later to hide (and be carried back with you). 

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