Downtown Lexington library takes steps to eradicate 'isolated' bedbugs

Twice-a-day vacuuming begun; steaming next

bfortune@herald-leader.comJuly 1, 2011 

The Lexington Public Library is taking steps to eradicate bedbugs from the Central Library on East Main Street, but officials say it remains a safe place for patrons.

Two bedbugs were found in recent days in the library, which has as many as half a million visitors each year, said spokesman Doug Tattersall.

"We're still busy, and people need to know they are safe here," he said.

A pair of bedbug-sniffing dogs from a pest control company in Evansville, Ind., found evidence of bedbugs Wednesday in "isolated pieces of furniture" on the first, third and fourth floors of the library, and in some staff areas, Tattersall said.

Furniture identified by the dogs was "immediately removed," he said.

In addition, the library has begun a twice-a-day regimen of vacuuming, and a carpet- cleaning company will come this weekend to steam-clean carpet and upholstered furniture throughout the building.

"These steps are a reaction, but they are also a precaution to keep something worse from happening," said Tattersall, an 11-year employee of the library who said he had never heard of bedbugs being an issue there.

Chris Christensen, owner of Truly Nolen Pest Prevention and a retired University of Kentucky entomology professor, said the library's bedbug problem "is not an infestation."

Christensen arranged to get the dogs and said he has talked with library officials about a treatment plan.

The most effective method of control is to heat-treat furniture in a portable heat container that gets to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, Christensen said.

"You put a piece of furniture in there. Seal the unit. When the thermometer reaches about 120 degrees, it fries them," he said of the bugs.

Bedbug infestations were fairly common in the United States before World War II.

With improved hygiene and widespread use of the pesticide DDT in the 1940s and '50s, bedbugs all but vanished in the United States. They remained fairly common in other parts of the world, said bedbug expert Michael Potter, a UK entomologist.

Their resurgence is due to a combination of factors, he said, including more international travel coupled with less effective chemicals. They are increasingly encountered in homes, office buildings, theaters, hotels, dormitories, schools and public transportation.

"I would say this in no way means people shouldn't continue to visit the library," Potter said. "The chances of picking up bedbugs by conducting their normal course of activities at a library are exceedingly low."

While visiting the downtown library Thursday, Carolyn Morris said she was not overly concerned about bedbugs in the building.

"If there were a lot of them I would be concerned, but just a few, you probably find them in a lot of places," Morris said.

Maricor Oabel brought a group of day-care students to the library Thursday for a field trip.

"If they found two, there could be more," Oabel said as she watched the children play on computers. "Bedbugs are not something to play around with."

The Fayette County Health Department received 252 bedbug complaints in 2010, spokesman Kevin Hall said.

He said the department works to educate people about what they can do to eliminate bedbugs in their homes and when they travel.

He particularly warned against Dumpster diving.

"When you see a mattress or a sofa or upholstered furniture on the side of the road and think you're getting a good deal, leave them alone," he said. "Many times you're getting a good deal of bedbugs."

When people toss mattresses and sofas, the health department suggests spraying the piece with a big orange X or cutting it up with a chain saw.

Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251

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