Government suggestions on what to do when bugs are found on clothing in public areas have been evolving over the last few years. A few years ago social service workers were afraid of entering infested suites and, to counter these fears, the powers that be suggested that bed bugs did not cling to cloth very well and that simply stamping your feet would dislodge whatever was on the clothing. The workers realized this was a ridiculous policy and demanded hazmat suits which were then provided. I have not heard anyone talk about the foot stomp policy for a number of years now.
Recently I noted that the Manitoba Government web site has a new policy for day cares and bed bugs. The policy states that if a bed bug is observed on a child the clothing should be inspected for bed bugs and if no other evidence is noted the child can go on his/her way. Again this advice is misplaced as even highly experienced exterminators have difficulty observing first instar bed bugs because they are tiny and almost translucent – they just blend in to the background. The only way to actually confirm a first instar is with a magnifying glass (preferably 7-10x) – they are that small. And we also know that bed bugs are communal bugs and if you find one bug it is more than likely part of a colony. So how would an untrained person be able to inspect clothing for first instars? Impossible. The whole idea is akin to purchasing a flea market item and bringing it into the house after flicking off all visible bugs. Surely there would be no other bugs? Right?
The result of this current policy is likely to widen the circle of infestation when the opposite is required. We want to reduce harm – not increase harm. A better solution would be, when bed bugs are found on clothing, to stand the child on a bed sheet and remove clothing. Let the clothing fall into the sheet and put on fresh clothing. Then pull up the four corners of the bed sheet and put the entire “bag” into the dryer. This action effectively stops further harm and takes less time than an “inspection.”
I think once again the workers (day care operators in this case) will ignore an obviously ridiculous policy. No sane person would pick a bed bug off their clothing and then, if they could find no other bug evidence, go into their own home. It just would not happen. And now there is a risk that the target audience will make decisions that are not helpful because they were not given useful information in the first place!
I think it is time for government departments to stop making thoughtless policies with no input from the exterminator community. And hopefully the “inspection” policy will follow the “foot stomp” policy into quiet oblivion.