WHEELING - Joseph Dominquez said he and his neighbors at Luau Manor are sick of their tiny unwanted guests - bedbugs.
"It's outrageous," Dominquez said. "It's at the point that it's pretty bad. Two people are getting evicted due to having bedbugs. We have residents moving out because they are getting bed bugs from another person walking across the hallway."
According to Dominquez, president of the resident council for the apartment complex on Chapline Street, Thursday morning was the first time he had been notified by the Wheeling Housing Authority that the apartments in the building were infested with bedbugs, even though residents had been aware of the situation for months.
Photos by Sarah Harmon
Joseph Dominquez, president of the resident council for Luau Manor on Chapline Street, is shown in his apartment on the second floor. According to Dominquez, residents on the third, fourth and fifth floors of the building have been battling bedbugs since the beginning of the year, and that the problem has caused one couple to move out.
The high-rise apartment complex owned by the Wheeling Housing Authority is home to more than 100 residents. According to several tenants, seven to eight apartments between the third and fifth floor have been infested.
"It's like being in jail in your own home," Larry Burns said outside of his apartment on the third floor. "I feel like a second-class citizen. It seems like no one cares."
Burns and his wife, Amy, have become so frustrated by the bedbug situation that they are moving out within the month. He said he felt forced to live in Luau Manor because of the high cost of his medical care to treat his lung cancer.
"When we were first bitten, we didn't know what the bites were," Burns said. "bedbugs have gotten into the apartment three times. We've been fighting them ever since for two years."
Howard Gamble, administrator for the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, said the the health department is aware of the complaints from Luau Manor.
"It's a controllable situation that the owners are actively treating. They are not lax in not treating or ignoring the complaints," Gamble said. "We are not immune in this area. We are going to have them because we are a mobile society. They hitch rides when we go to an apartment or a hotel on our luggage, clothes, sleepwear and we bring them back to where we live."
Gamble said every high-rise building is required to establish a treatment plan and that investigators have talked to management of the building and have seen that the treatment plan is being followed.
However, according to Dominquez, bedbugs are not the only pests in the apartment building - there are roaches, too.
"Every apartment has at least five or six roach traps. Mine are in the kitchen, and you can see them. I changed them last week, and I guarantee there are three or four on each one."
Dominquez said he is worried about the cleanliness of the building and the health of its residents. Dominquez has been battling a rare illness and has had 16 surgeries in the last six years. At the moment, he has a 1.5-foot incision across his stomach from surgery, and he's afraid it could get infected from the pests.
"They're stating that bedbugs are not harmful to humans. They are, I'm sorry. They suck on blood. If I get sick, I'm in trouble," he said.
Gamble said that while bedbugs are difficult to eliminate, they do not carry infection.
"If there is a nice thing about bedbugs, which there is not, it is that they do not transmit disease," Gamble said. "You could have a secondary infection though. For example, if you have bites on your arms you may overly scratch and that can open up wounds that could get you infected. The best thing to do if you are bitten is seek a health care professional about getting something to treat the bites to prevent you from itching them."
Attempts to contact the Wheeling Housing Authority were unsuccessful Thursday.