Bedbugs, those wingless, evasive insects that transmit no disease but feast on blood as people sleep, may still be infesting spots ranging from dormitories, hotels and nursing homes to residences in upscale neighborhoods, officials say.
What's changing is that more people are coming forward to learn about them with an eye to preventing the arrival and spread of this "equal opportunity pest," said Rene Fiechter, assistant district attorney and Nassau County Bed Bug Task Force co-chair.
Representatives from hotels, nursing homes, schools, youth agencies and hospitals, as well as landlords and first responders, are signed up for a task-force-sponsored bedbug workshop Wednesday in Bethpage, Fiechter said. In the early days of the task force, which has been around for about six years, he said, there was much less willingness to talk about the problem.
Over the past decade the area has seen a resurgence of the insects, which "spread easily through buildings and are experts at hiding," according to the task force website.
A new sector of interest this year, Fiechter said, involves people displaced to shelters from their homes following superstorm Sandy. First responders and others, like home health aides, who travel from home to home also are concerned with transmitting the bugs to others and to their own homes, he said. A tip for them -- avoid the "black ninja outfits," he said, and stick with light-colored clothing so the insect, anywhere from 1 mm to 7 mm, can be easily spotted.
While awareness has increased, bedbugs remain "a hidden problem" for some, often the elderly, said Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an entomologist and community coordinator of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, who will speak at the workshop.
It's hard to say which areas on Long Island are most severely impacted, she said, but the most "intense" problems can exist in housing such as apartment buildings and group homes -- any place where a number of people live in proximity.
So far this year the Nassau health department has responded to 32 bedbug complaints in rental properties, not including ones in incorporated villages and cities. Last year the county responded to 33 complaints; in 2011, 63; in 2010, 91.
The issue is not in the purview of the Suffolk health department, a spokeswoman said.Learn more about the workshop and bedbug prevention at http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/Agencies/bedbugs/index.html