Story by Kelly Grant and Adam Huras
The city is declaring war on bed bugs.
Infestations of the tiny wingless insects have spread so swiftly across Toronto in the last few years -- one exterminator even described clients picking up bed bugs at hospitals -- that an East Toronto councillor yesterday asked the public health unit to study what it could do to eradicate the problem.
"[Bed bugs] are starting to migrate. They migrate not only in apartment buildings. I think that they're becoming a real big problem in the city of Toronto," Councillor Paula Fletcher said.
Ms. Fletcher asked the health unit to look at launching a bed-bug furniture pickup program, to investigate how other cities are tackling infestations, and to recommend how the city can prevent and control the insects.
Dr. David McKeown, the city's medical officer of health, will be among those attending a town hall meeting tomorrow night on the bed bug plague.
Sponsored by WoodGreen Community Services, an east-end not-for-profit group, the meeting will focus on what can be done to fight the insects? spread in the city's shelters, drop-in centres and social housing.
The problem, however, has spread well beyond publicly owned buildings, Toronto exterminators say.
"Business has easily increased 50% per year over the last five years. It has been tremendous," said Paul Bossio, general manager of Advantage Pest Control. "Five years ago bed bugs may be represented a maximum of 5% of our business. Now it's over 30% of it."
Carlo Panacci, the owner of Cain Pest Control, said that in 1999 he had only two calls the entire year to eliminate the quarter-inch bugs. Now he averages eight to 10 calls a day.
"I do more work with bed bugs than anything else, hands down. More bed bugs than roaches, more bed bugs than mice, easily," he said.
When his bed bug business first started to pick up, Mr. Panacci said most calls came from boarding houses.
Today the bugs do not discriminate. The problem has spread to apartments, hotels, hospitals and doctors' offices.
"I've had a woman coming back from the hospital with a brand new baby and said she picked them up at the hospital," Mr. Panacci said. "I've had doctor offices call me up saying they had a patient get out of the chair, and they're all over the chair."
Part of the city's challenge is that the pests fall into an enforcement grey area. Unlike mice, cockroaches and termites, which fall under the umbrella of the municipal licensing department, dealing with bed bugs is the responsibility of Toronto Public Health.
Reg Ayre, a manager in the healthy environments program at TPH, said the public health unit does not specifically track the scope of the bed bug problem. Instead, it offers advice on wiping out the bugs via the phone or visits, then keeps track of calls for advice from Torontonians.
Source : http://communities.canada.com/nationalpost/blogs/toronto/archive/2007/11/13/bed-bugs-invade-toronto.aspx