Just the mention of bedbugs is enough to raise concern about transmitting the insidious creatures from one location to another. Eliminating the stigma attached to discovery of them in a home helps get the problem addressed before drastic measures may be needed.
“Psychologically they can mess you up. We really want to take the education approach to dealing with the problem,” said Bracken County Health Department Director Tony Cox. “They are not a health hazard, but they are annoying and not a stranger to any economic level.”
For those who try to avoid the cost of professional treatment, home remedies have had dangerous and tragic outcomes in the region, police said. From Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Phoenix, Arizona, cases are documented of fires related to attempts to exterminate bedbugs.
A fatal fire in Bracken County in July 2013, that killed five members of a family, was determined to be the result of an attempt at home treatment and an infestation turned into a tragedy. According to Kentucky State Police officials, the incident has been labeled an accidental fire that resulted in the death of Rani Doss and her children Emily, Bradley, Dylan and Michael.
Parts of the house was treated with a flammable product with residual fumes for an infestation of bedbugs and was not adequately ventilated, police said. As a result, something in the house ignited the remaining fumes, causing the house to explode and catch fire, police said.
Investigators, due to the complete destruction of the house along Kentucky 19 in the fire, were not able to determine an ignition source, which could have been any spark, police said. Rani and the children died in the fire.
Her husband, Ken Doss, who was rescued by family members Stephen Werber and Sheila Werber, who had been staying in a room that had not undergone the treatment, suffered serious burns in the fire. Ken Doss was released from the hospital over the summer and continues to have health problems related to the fire, police said.
Getting rid of bedbugs is difficult, with a hefty price tag and varied results. Cox has information in his office on identifying the pests and options people wondering what to do about them can use for reference, he said.
Self-treating properties to remove infestations of bedbugs can be ineffective and professional help may be needed to rid a property of the pests.
“The information we have gives a person options, individually and commercially,” Cox said. “There may also be help available through referrals to agencies that get grants to help.”
Cox suggested contacting the local Family Resources Office if the cost of mitigation is too much.
“We want them to know there are options and a safe approach should be used,” Cox said.
The Doss accident, while tragic, is not an isolated case. Other incidents of self-treatment for bed bug infestations have also caused injuries and losses, police said.
An incident in June 2012 in Carlisle, in Nicholas County, where 30 people were displaced after a couch doused with a flammable product to fight bed bugs ignited, gutted an historic structure in the heart of the city and threatened adjacent structures.
In other incidents isopropyl alcohol was used to treat for bed bugs in a home in Colerain Township, Ohio, which ignited and set an apartment on fire, displacing a family of six, fire officials said.
Officials encourage anyone with bedbug problems, not to self-treat, but to contact professionals to fight the bugs. Because bedbugs do not spread disease, they are not under the jurisdiction of intervention by the health department, Cox said.
“We can't get into legal issues with people, but we can provide them with information so they can find what they need,” Cox said. “They need to be able to deal with it safely, without panicking.”
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