- (Photo: TBD Staff)
A bedbug scare at a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building in Rockville is not over yet.
Back in October, building management said there were unrelated bedbug infestations in two separate areas of HHS's Parklawn building, after which an exterminator was dispatched to treat the affected area. Then came the bedbug-sniffing dogs.
In a memo to employees, building management reported that the dogs came to inspect the building on Nov. 1 and found areas that potentially had bedbugs or bedbug indicators, such as larvae or droppings.
"During this process, the second floor fitness center was identified as a possible problem area but upon further investigation, no issues were found. After a thorough precautionary deep cleaning, the fitness center will be reopened," reads the Nov. 3 memo.
Apparently the dogs had picked up something on an employee’s gym bag, says Marla Hendriksson, spokeswoman for the Program Services Center division of HHS which is in charge of managing the building.
The gym was then closed for precaution and rechecked, but has since reopened, says HHS spokesman Bill Hall. PSC held a town hall-style meeting with employees to debrief them on the bedbug issue and offer tips on how to prevent the spread of the bugs.
Other areas of the building have been marked for more treatments. Hall couldn’t provide details as to which floors are getting the treatment, but he did say three-tenths of 1 percent of the building had bedbug reports and that 1 percent of the building is being treated.
“It can happen anywhere. It’s a very big building, people come in and out all the time,” Hendriksson says. “It has nothing to do with the health department.”
HHS is the agency that oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, issued a bedbugs report earlier this year that is often cited by local public health officials in bedbug education campaigns.
A Parklawn employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because employees have been instructed not to speak to the media, tells TBD that some office workers have been telecommuting from home due to the infestation reports and subsequent inspections and treatments.
The employee also says that as part of the bedbug prevention, workers have been instructed to “dress casually, clean our offices top to bottom” and “when we come home from work, we’re supposed to put our clothes in the dryer for 30 minutes.”
Heat treatment, in particular steaming, is among the more common ways to combat an infestation.
Building management sent this flyer to employees earlier this month: