Saline County Commissioners scratch for answer to bed bug problem; What is county’s role?

Bed bugs are classified as a public health pest. However, Saline County Health Department Director Jason Tiller told county commissioners Tuesday that since bed bugs don’t spread disease, they are not considered a public health threat.

Bed bugs are small — as small as a quarter of an inch — reddish-brown, disc-shaped bugs that often hide in fabrics, along seams. You might not see them, but you might see small black specks that are evidence that bed bugs are around. At last week’s county commission meeting, Larry Mattison, of New Cambria, told county commissioners he had 10 to 12 cases of bed bugs in his rentals in the past year. He was frustrated, he said, because when people move to another house or apartment, they just move the bed bugs with them.

He left a mattress on the curb with a note warning people not to take it because it was infested, and someone took it, he told commissioners Tuesday.

“As long as it’s not treated, it’s just going to get worse,” Mattison said. “Right now, it’s all falling on the landlords. There must be a way to track them.”

Problem worsening

Treating an infestation costs $700 to $1,500, Mattison said.

A couple of local exterminators agree with Mattison.

Jason Hutchinson, of Smolan, representing World Pet Control and Sunflower Services, attended Tuesday’s commission meeting. She said the bed bug problem keeps getting worse.

“Right now, it’s mushroomed,” Hutchinson said. “It has been exponential in its growth. Tiller said he searched for and could not find any county, city or state ordinances concerning bed bugs, except for two from the Department of Agriculture. He couldn’t find much searching other states’ laws; some didn’t mention bed bugs.

“What role do we have in this?” asked Commission Chairman Monte Shadwick.

Cleanliness doesn’t help, Tiller said; prevention is important.

Education is key

Public education is better at stopping or slowing the spread of bed bugs, Tiller said.

(Read more: News – Salina Journal)