Ontario hopes $5 million will crush bed bug problem
TORONTO - Ontario hopes to help stamp out bedbugs by putting a $5-million bite into the skin-crawling problem.
Ontario's 36 public health units will soon be able to apply for funding to combat the apple seed-sized bloodsuckers, which have made a resurgence over the last few years.
The province announced Monday it will invest $5 million to support local education and awareness programs and to support vulnerable and frail populations who can't afford to battle the bugs on their own.
"It's an issue that really devastates people," said Liberal member Michael Colle.
"This is a serious public health issue."
"I don't know any bug that can destroy your mental health, can destroy your financial well-being and can sometimes destroy your whole social network because people won't have anything to do with you if they think you've got them," he said.
The government also launched a provincewide public education campaign that includes a website -- bedbugsinfo.ca -- that tells people how to identify and eliminate the creepy critters.
It's also distributing a best practices guide that spells out how to identify bedbugs, perform treatments and hire a proper pest management professional.
The guide has tips on checking for bedbugs, including looking in tiny spaces such as screw and peg holes in office chairs and other furniture.
The website and funding will help thousands of people, said Colle, who held Canada's first bedbug summit in Toronto in September.
An infestation of the "nasty" bugs can cost thousands of dollars to eradicate and there's a huge demand for help, said Colle.
Part of the problem in containing their spread is people don't know the correct way to get rid of the bugs, he said.
Colle also spoke about the importance of prevention, saying people often bring used clothes, furniture, books and toys into their homes without checking for bugs.
While $5 million provincewide might not seem like much to some, Colle said it's the first provincial money to be offered and he hopes it will "start to stem the tide."
"There's been zero up to now. So now for the first time we've got $5 million which is a significant amount of money, so it really goes a long way."
Some agencies such as WoodGreen Community Services have done incredible work with little money, he noted. However there is no money for individual homeowners battling bedbugs.
Colle said he's tried contacting federal officials about the problem but so far there's been no response from Health Canada. Bedbugs know no borders, he warned.
"I know they're in Halifax, they're in Montreal, they're in Vancouver and they're travelling. They're easy travellers," said Colle.
"It's something that needs everybody on deck and I hope they start to take this more seriously."