Bed Bugs Doing Our Part A Community Effort

Mohammad Alam PhD., RS

Denisha Garland MPH, RS, HHS

Ken Sharkey, RS

Allison Weber, SIT


In 2007 the Cincinnati Health Department (CHD) received 750 bed bug complaints, mostly from multiunit apartment buildings and senior citizen apartment complexes. CHD has received more than 843 bed bug complaints through September 2008. The costs for educational materials, personnel time, and protective equipment have increased dramatically.


In mid-2007, CHD began an aggressive community outreach and education campaign , including production of an informational brochure, a 30 second public service announcement, a 30 minute DVD with information about bed bug identification and treatment, and multiple presentations by staff to citizens groups, apartment managers and tenants, schools staff, businesses, city employees, neighborhood councils, senior centers and senior apartment complexes.


In January 2008 a Joint Bed Bug Task Force (JBBTF) was formed with staff from the Cincinnati Health Department, Hamilton County Public Health, and the Ohio State University Extension Office. The JBBTFs Strategic Plan contains recommendations for education, inspection, legal and enforcement issues, resource needs, training, research, and evaluation. The JBBTF used the 2008 Greater Cincinnati Health Survey to determine how many households in Hamilton County had a bed bug infestation in the past year.


In early 2008, the Cincinnati City Council passed an ordinance specifically naming bed bugs as vermin. In August 2008, the Cincinnati Health Department sponsored an all-day conference, with regional participation by more than 400 health department staff, pest management professionals, city employees (fire, police, public services), schools, community health centers, senior centers, tenant and landlord associations, homeowners, lawyers, and the media. Parallel sessions were offered to the general public, and to pest management professionals and registered sanitarians. All conference sessions were videotaped.


Our outreach efforts are extensive but not enough. More resources are needed to effectively respond to the growing bed bug epidemic in the Southwest Region of Ohio, and in other cities and regions of the state.