NASHUA — As bedbug infestations continue to be a problem throughout Nashua and other communities, education is key to eradicating the unwanted pests wreaking havoc in local homes, experts say.
“All over New Hampshire the bedbug problem is growing. Throughout the state from as far up as Berlin and as far south as Nashua, it is a concern,” said Nelson Ortega, department manager for the city’s Code Enforcement Department. “We get bedbug complaints probably five or six times a week.”
According to Ortega, Nashua is dealing with between 100 and 150 bedbug infestations that are either active or in the process of being abated. That estimate — a maximum of about 150 — is the number of buildings that have been flagged with problems, although the amount of residential units with bedbugs present could be significantly higher since one building may have multiple units, Ortega said.
Years ago, cockroaches seemed to be the largest infestation problem, but that has since been replaced with reports of bedbugs, which can go unnoticed for quite some time, he said.
“They are just all over the place now,” Ortega said of the pesky bloodsucking insects formally known as cimex lectularius. “Fortunately, both landlords and tenants are getting more educated about the problem.”
And there has been growing attention to the infestations plaguing cities throughout New Hampshire and nationwide. In April, the state Senate passed House Bill 482, which outlines the parameters for dealing with bedbug outbreaks and the responsibility of landlords and tenants to correct the problem.
Ortega said his department is not concerned about placing blame but rather fixing the issue.
“A lot of cities are in worse shape than Nashua, but we are up there. We are also reacting,” he said. “If everyone takes the steps to professionally attack the problem and not worry about the stigma of reporting them, it would help to reduce the instances.”
Landlords in Nashua, according to Ortega, now seem more receptive to remedying the complaints and resolving the outbreaks as soon as possible, even though it is costly to professionally rid houses of the bugs.
“It is expensive. There is one property in Nashua that has spent $40,000 in an attempt to debug the units,” said Ortega. “We get complaints from throughout the city, but we tend to see them more in the central Tree Streets area.”
In an effort to alleviate some of the growing problem, an educational seminar titled “Nashua Bites Back” has been planned for later today at Welcoming Light’s Training Institute, which is housed at Harbor Homes at 45 High St. The seminar, assisted by the New Hampshire Bed Bug Action Committee, is free and open to the public beginning at 2 p.m.
Pat Long, a Manchester alderman and state representative, is expected to provide an update on the bedbug legislation that he introduced, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. The legislation sets up a framework for rapid response that will positively affect the ability of landlords, tenants, municipal health and house code enforcement departments to control the spread of bedbugs, according to a release.
“The anxiety and stigma of realizing you have bedbugs are both overwhelming and life changing. Your days and nights are consumed with, ‘How do I deal with this?’” Long said in a statement. “Through education and landlord/tenant cooperation, your quality of life can return to the level you deserve.”
Long will be joined by Sherrie Juris from Atlantic Pest Solutions, who will focus on the education and prevention aspects of the bedbug problem.
“It is critically important for all stakeholders in Nashua — homeowners, landlords, tenants, city government, the nonprofit sector and businesses — to come together to address the growing bedbug crisis in Nashua,” said Sarah Jane Knoy, executive director of the Granite State Organizing Project.
Ortega said the city is working closely with many groups to get the bedbug infestations under control in Nashua, but he admits it is an uphill battle.
Erin Schaick of Welcoming Light agrees.
“From my experience, I believe it is getting worse. It is a growing problem, and we really just want to combat it before it gets worse,” said Schaick.