KEENE, N.H. — A second Cheshire County nursing home is battling bed bugs.
Representatives with Westwood Care and Rehabilitation Center and officials with the city of Keene confirmed Wednesday the Main Street nursing home facility has bed bugs. A Winchester facility owned by the same company has also been identified as having the bugs.
“We do have bed bugs, and we’re working to eliminate them,” Westwood Administrator Michael Johnson said Thursday.
Meanwhile, a N.H. House subcommittee is examining ways to deal with bed bugs in the state.
The bed bugs in Keene were first discovered Nov. 19, and an exterminator was immediately contacted to address the issue, Johnson said.
“We have had three sightings all isolated to one unit,” he said. A unit consists of multiple rooms.
Johnson said he doesn’t know how the bed bugs got into Westwood, but doesn’t believe their arrival is linked to another nursing center.
Earlier this fall, bed bugs were found at Applewood Care and Rehabilitation Center in Winchester.
Applewood and Westwood are owned by SunBridge Healthcare, which is part of the Sun Healthcare Group Inc.
Westwood is licensed to have 85 residents.
Johnson said educational information about bed bugs has been provided to Westwood residents, families and staff. Families of residents whose rooms were affected were notified, he said.
The educational information included a presentation to explain Westwood’s plan of action to eradicate the bed bugs and data from the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, he said.
In addition, Westwood staff have been informed of precautions and procedures regarding bed bugs, he said.
Going forward, Westwood “will continue to follow the guidance of our service provider, and as a precautionary measure, have them perform ongoing checks” for bed bugs, Johnson said.
John Rogers, code and inspections manager for the city of Keene, said his office recorded a complaint about bed bugs at Westwood on Nov. 20, and did an inspection of the facility Nov. 21.
“They already had conducted an inspection of the facility, and found evidence of bed bugs in three or four rooms. They had also contacted a professional company to do inspections and treat for bed bugs,” he said
New Hampshire doesn’t have any regulations pertaining to addressing a bed bug infestation, and because bed bugs don’t carry diseases, an infestation doesn’t have to be reported to local or state health departments.
Rogers said that if his department receives a complaint about a bed bug infestation, it approaches the situation by means of a city ordinance in which infestations aren’t allowed in housing.
“At that point in time, we require the property owner to take care of the situation, and we recommend they use a professional service,” he said.
A property owner would also be required to have a plan to prevent future bed bug infestations, he said.
“We receive about six to 10 complaints about bed bugs a year. We assume this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Philip J. Alexakos, chief of environmental health and emergency preparedness for Manchester and a representative on the state Legislature’s Bed Bug Subcommittee, said dealing with bed bugs is a complex problem, and one that isn’t easily solved.
“It’s not as simple as putting out a trap or spraying chemicals to get rid of them. It’s an ongoing process,” he said.
Bed bugs were eradicated from the United States after World War II with the use of DDT and other pesticides, he said.
With the use of those chemicals now more controlled, bed bugs developing a resistance to them, and with the increased frequency of people traveling, bed bugs have made a comeback, he said.
The Bed Bug Subcommittee, which is under the N.H. House’s Health and Human Services Oversight Committee, hopes to present a report within the first few months of the new legislative session, he said.
The subcommittee’s work has included collecting state bed bug data and looking at bed bug policies in other states, including New York and Maine, he said.
“Bed bugs are non-discriminating. They just want a blood meal,” he said.
The subcommittee, which grew out of the Bed Bug Action Committee in Manchester, knows that educating people about bed bugs is important to addressing the problem, and informing them of the best practices for dealing with them is key, he said. The state also needs to find a better way to track the problem, he said.
Bedbugs are small, oval insects that feed on the blood of mammals and birds. They often hide in cracks and crevices, and can live in furniture, cushions, mattresses and walls.
Bed bugs can be prevented by inspecting clothing and luggage before it enters a home after a trip, and by checking used clothing and furniture for bugs.
Heat treatments and chemicals applied by an exterminator are the most effective ways to get rid of bed bugs.
“This problem isn’t going away anytime soon,” Alexakos said.