Bed bugs on the rise in eastern Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Bed bugs on the rise in eastern Iowa

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Bed bugs are on the rise in eastern Iowa.

The city of Dubuque's housing inspector, Bob Boge, said bed bugs are a regular problem, whereas they weren't when he started in his position some five years ago. He estimates the city now receives about 15 unique bed bug complaints per year.

Bed bugs are small insects that feed on human blood and leave itchy, red welts. They often come out to feed at night and hide during the day in the crevices of mattresses and furniture.

Boge recommends people be leery of buying used furniture at a secondhand store and that people who buy clothing at a garage sale or thrift shop put those clothes - dry - into a dryer for a full, high-heat cycle so the heat can kill any bedbugs that might be there.

Ecumenical Tower in downtown Dubuque is now bed bug-free, but that wasn't the case just one month ago.

Matthew Roddy is housing director for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, which owns and operates Ecumenical Tower, a non-profit apartment building for seniors and adults with special needs.

Each of the building's 88 apartments gets inspected twice a year for any pests or unclean living conditions, Roddy said. The most recent inspection, in August, revealed evidence of bed bugs in three units.

"This is all new to us," Roddy said. "This is the first time we've had to deal with this, as a building."

Ecumenical Tower was built more than 40 years ago.

A pest company exterminated the bed bugs, using a heat treatment. Its follow-up inspection showed the process was successful.

"I said to someone recently, 'I'm not going to be beat by some darn bug,'" Roddy said. "We've licked it for now, but I'm here to say we're putting a process in place to make sure it doesn't happen again."

He said aides with the Dubuque Visiting Nurse Association who visit Ecumenical Tower to assist people living there are still being required to wear protective covers on their clothes to guard against bed bugs, which Roddy said is unnecessary at this point.

"We've dealt with it here. It's gone, and we're committed to creating and perpetuating circumstances that don't allow return," he said.

Dubuque's Visiting Nurse Association wasn't able to comment on the matter without permission from UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital, which did not get back to KWWL Wednesday afternoon.

Roddy plans on focusing on prevention, telling residents to avoid buying used bedding and furniture and to be conscious of where they've been, as people can track bed bugs into a non-infested building.

Boge said bed bug infestations can happen in private homes and rental units alike and to people at all levels on income.

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