Santa Clara County struggles with bed bugs

June 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Bed bug infestations are a growing problem in Santa Clara County. The pests are turning up everywhere, in motels, homes and apartments. But there seems to be a grey area when it comes to rental properties and who's responsible for getting rid of bed bugs.

Bed bugs are getting into all kinds of places and there's a lot of blame going around, especially since the number of cases in Santa Clara County has doubled every year since 2006.

"Everybody that came over got bit," said Camille Gilmore.

Gilmore moved into a Santa Clara apartment in February and three months later she realized she had bed bugs.

"He pulled this back, they were in the rail of my bed and all in that corner," said Gilmore.

Bed bugs can hide anywhere, in mattresses, in walls, sofas, and even inside telephones. However, Gilmore never saw them because she's legally blind. Even her live-in care giver left because of the bed bugs. Gilmore then contacted the building owner.

"The owner is saying I brought them like everybody does, and everybody is pointing fingers like you said and I'm not responsible. I didn't bring them," said Gilmore.

Gilmore tried moving out; she says the owner won't let her break her lease. ABC7 called the corporate office and someone said the owner had no comment and then he simply hung up. ABC7 did learn the owner has steam cleaned the carpets and bombed the place. Gilmore, in the meantime, uses over the counter powders and sprays, but the bugs keep coming back. The county's vector control agency was notified earlier this month.

"Now, we're up to 150, 250 calls a year and its doubling every year because they're insects and bugs make a lot of babies," said Russ Parman from the Santa Clara Convector Control.

The department doesn't exterminate, but can advise. Gilmore was told someone needs to clean out her home, hire an exterminator, and continuously treat the apartment for a month or the bugs could spread to neighboring apartments.

"The more we point fingers and squabble back and forth, these guys are just breeding away while we're arguing," said Parman.

While the issue of responsibility continues, Gilmore's neighbor feels caught in the middle.

"I'm kind of worried about it because I wouldn't want it to happen to me. I wouldn't want something happening to my apartment," said neighbor Teddy Noll.

One exterminator ABC7 called Thursday said it costs about $500 to get rid of bed bugs properly.

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