Bed bugs persist at work release center

EVERETT — Bed bugs remain stubborn squatters and lousy bunk mates in the Snohomish County Work Release Center.

A months-long series of steaming and chemical treatments inside an inmate dorm hasn’t rid the jail of its blood-thirsty guests.

On Jan. 21, a work release trustee reported his bites to the Snohomish County Health District. Through his attorney, he described bites on his abdomen and said a fellow inmate needed medical treatment after being bitten on the eyelid.

The health district has no specific laws, or program, to address bed bug problems

Bed bugs are tiny wingless insects that feed on warm-blooded animals, mainly when they are asleep. They aren’t known to spread disease, but can cause insomnia, anxiety and allergic reactions. Scratching the bites can cause secondary skin infections.

Work release trustees have been complaining about the infestation since summer. One man serving time on a drunken driving conviction filed a grievance in September reporting he had more than 100 bites.

A pest control contractor believes the problem might soon be under control, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Shari Ireton said. The company sprayed chemicals Jan. 24 and is scheduled to return later this week for another inspection.

“We certainly hope they will be gone,” Ireton said.

The county has spent several thousand dollars so far trying to eliminate the bug problem, but the rice grain-sized pests are resilient parasites that can go months without a meal. They have a knack for hiding in mattress seams, box springs, bed frames and dressers.

It often can take multiple treatments to get rid of them, Ireton said. Pest control contractors have visited the jail six times in recent months.

At the height of the infestation, trustees reported seeing bugs crawling on books and in their bedding. They wore extra clothes at night to limit the areas where they might get bitten.

During its most recent visit to the jail, the pest control contractor reported finding 27 dead bed bugs. The inspection revealed that the baby bed bugs had not had “blood mates,” according to jail records.

Pest control workers believe that bed bug eggs left by adults that died were still hatching inside the walls. They injected an insecticide into the wall in hopes of eliminating any remaining viable eggs.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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