Fears of bedbugs at Liberty House, a North Platte center for people with emotional and behavioral disabilities, reached the point Wednesday that residents are forbidden from riding on city transit buses.
North Platte City Transit director Marilee Hyde said Liberty House officials confirmed they do in fact have bedbugs.
Hyde had the buses checked and they are clean of the pests, but she is taking no chances.
“We have to be careful; they could spread all over town,” she said.
John Pinkerton, the owner at Liberty House, was at the house Friday and told the Bulletin that rumors are exaggerated. He said bedbugs have been found in a couple rooms but it’s nothing serious.
“We spray weekly without fail,” Pinkerton said. “There is virtually no bedbug problem here. The whole thing is completely ridiculous. I wouldn’t hesitate to sleep here; I can tell you that.”
Pinkerton said a professional exterminator would come Monday and Hyde would receive a certification when the job is done.
Bedbugs are all too common. They show up at times in hospitals in Omaha and a couple years ago appeared at University of Nebraska dormitories.
Pinkerton suspects bedbugs migrated to Liberty House on former residents of the Pawnee Hotel in January, when several residents moved out of the Pawnee because the heaters were not working right.
The Pawnee had bedbugs during its final weeks, according to several people, but director Sandy Schade said then that they were confined to a handful of rooms and were being exterminated.
Randy Miles of North Platte told the Bulletin that Liberty House was plagued with a major bedbug about five months ago, “causing the residents to have numerous bites.”
Miles said his information came from others. He said he is acquainted with some residents at “one of my jobs.”
Miles thought the infestation five months ago was so bad that many beds, clothing and personal items were discarded. He said the Liberty House staff sprayed a chemical that is designed to repel, not exterminate the bugs.
“To effectively exterminate requires hiring a professional exterminator and to vacate the facility for a period of at least four hours,” Miles said in an email to the Bulletin.
Angela Brown, the Assistant Emergency Response Coordinator at the West Central Health District in North Platte, said she heard unconfirmed rumors of bedbugs at Liberty House, but nothing definite.
Although bedbugs are a nuisance, they do not transmit diseases, Brown said, citing the Center for Disease Control.
More about bedbugs, from Brown and the CDC:
Bedbugs are small, oval and brownish. They live on the blood of animals or humans. Adults have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color, according to the CDC.
Bedbugs can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings but no not fly. Females may lay hundreds of eggs, each about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime of several weeks.
Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed skins five times before reaching maturity and require a meal of blood before each shedding. Under favorable conditions the bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year.
Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. The bites are painless at first but later turn into itchy welts.
Cleaning infested areas will be very helpful in controlling bedbugs, but getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments.
“Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that can be used safely in bedrooms. Generally it is safest and most effective to hire an experienced pest control professional for bedbug extermination,” according to Brown and the CDC.