Bed Bug Infestation Forces Shelter to Rid of Mattresses

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HARLINGEN – Loaves and Fishes in Harlingen threw out dozens of mattresses. The shelter, which caters to homeless and low-income people, had a bed bug infestation recently.

They were forced to rid of some beds.

It’s a situation Bill Reagan never dealt with in the past seven years as CEO of Loaves and Fishes.

“One of our clients came in and said that there was bed bugs in his mattress, and so we went and took a look. And there’s about 44 beds on that side, and all the beds on the left side of the shelter were infested with the bed bugs,” Reagan said.

Fifteen beds had to be thrown out. The man who got bit by the tiny bugs was treated with anti-itch ointments. Thanks to a social media post by a visitor at the shelter that day, a donor quickly replaced the mattresses that were thrown out.

“We were going to put the new ones in, and another client came and said there were still bed bugs,” Reagan said.

The count went from 15 to 44 beds infested. All of the beds in the men’s dormitory had to be thrown out.

The shelter caters to the homeless and low-income people. About 500 to 600 people use the shelter every year. Reagan said it’s impossible to say where the bed bugs came from.

“Right now, they are sleeping on cots and will be until we’re sure that there aren’t any more bed bugs,” he said.

The shelter operates in great part on donations. Reagan is hoping to get 30 twin-size mattresses in time for the shelter’s busiest season.

“We also had all the guys take their belongings out and put them in a plastic bag and take them to the laundry mat and wash everything. Bed bugs are hard to get rid of under any circumstances. Some of our folks spend the days in the bushes and things like that so it’s even harder I think for us,” Reagan said.

A couch and several recliner chairs also had to be thrown out of the shelter for precaution. The women’s dormitory wasn’t affected.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a bed bug infestation is considered a public health risk. However, bed buds do not transmit diseases. They do feed on blood and cause an itchy sensation.

The agency said the recent increase of bed bugs in the U.S. is due to more travel. Adult bed bugs are about the side of an apple seed, brown in color and have flat bodies.

There are more than 300 pesticides approved to kill bed bugs, some must only be used by professionals. Extreme cold or heat applied to infested areas can help kill bed bugs. 

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