[Cockroach Control] Learning From The Past

Features - Cockroaches

What can a mysterious cockroach infestation in a hospital teach us about today’s most troublesome pest?

July 27, 2011

If you do not study history you are doomed to repeat it."

Remember the days when we could not kill the German cockroach? Remember when they were everywhere? Remember that about the only way to kill them was to step on them or drown them in liquids and/or aerosols?

Here is a chance to learn from the past and apply it to the present and future.

A COCKROACH MYSTERY. Hospital XYZ was a 750-bed facility servicing all aspects of the health-care industry and all levels of society in a major U.S. city. The year was about 1988. This facility was not different in the fact that German cockroaches were present and extremely hard to control but different in that the infestation was in a patient room. Typically, a patient room is a large clean, almost aseptic environment. The only difference was that this room was in a long-term patient wing. These patients had chronic diseases and repeat visits and long-term stays were often needed.

It first started with the sighting of a few roaches in and around the patient’s bed. Typical protocol was to remove the patient, send in a service technician to inspect, place monitors and treat if necessary. Over the next several months, while there was no discernable pattern, the complaints continued from patients in various rooms in the same wing. Each of our inspections revealed the same thing: no obvious signs of infestations, sanitation and maintenance were both excellent.

Even after closing the room for 48 to 72 hours and cloverleafing other rooms nearby, no signs of cockroach populations were seen except for the ones killed either by the patient, family or staff of the hospital. Food and housekeeping carts were inspected as well as all the obvious areas such as kitchens, nurses stations, locker rooms, boiler rooms, etc. There were no complaints or signs of any infestations or populations in the rest of the entire facility.

One morning we got a telephone call from our contact at XYZ hospital to dispatch somebody ASAP. It turns out that during grand rounds (a term used in hospitals that means the head of medicine or some equally important official was doing his tour on the floors), cockroaches were spotted.

Being the service manager at that time, I took it upon myself to respond to this situation. The same wing was involved but in this incident several people saw "thousands" of roaches in and around the patient’s bed.

When I arrived there were many individuals waiting for me as I entered the wing. The director of medicine and the director of the hospital were there, extremely irritated at the sightings on the same floor and in the same general areas. Somebody decided that even the patient and his family should be in on this discussion, the inspection and the decisions. Family members were going to call the attorneys and "How dare we allow this infestation" to happen.

Fortunately for me, during this inspection, the patient was still there. While the patient was in bed I inspected the room, furniture and everything else. When I asked for help in getting the patient out of the bed so I could inspect it I noticed that the patient had a great deal of trouble moving one his legs. When I asked if I could help he said yes and upon lifting his leg I realized it was a prosthetic device. When asked how old it was he responded that he had that leg for many years. The patient was an elderly gentleman with a chronic health condition that had caused the loss of his limb 20+ years ago. He was a repeat patient and was usually in and out of the hospital several times during a six-month period. He lived at home with his children and other family members.

When I asked if I could look at his prosthesis he replied "sure" and while inspecting the "leg" the shoe fell off and out of the shoe came several dozen German cockroaches. Upon further inspection, the joints of the limb also contained dozens of additional cockroaches. It should be pointed out that at the time of this discovery all stages of the life cycle were present — including egg capsules.

Needless to say, this ended well for our firm and caused a major overhaul of the standard operating procedures in admitting patients. Easy enough right?

MEANING FOR BED BUGS? How can this hospital/cockroach case study help us with today’s unprecedented resurgence of bed bugs? We know they are problematic in many different situations. This history lesson should be learned from and not ignored. According to a document I used in my presentation at the Purdue Conference in 2009 "in 1939, 95 to 97 percent of all the single-family households in the United States had issues, either in the past or currently, with bed bugs."

With HIPPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in place it will become increasingly difficult to find out the who, what, when, where, how, information that we will need to know about any pest in sensitive accounts, including ones like the hospital previously discussed.

A good idea is to put into action and help your customers create a "plan of action" when dealing not only with bed bugs but any pest found in a patient area or other such sensitive account. This plan of action should include specific instructions on who is notified, what plans there are for the patient, what the plan is to inspect and treat or clean the room, how long the room is to be vacated, what to do with the furniture and equipment in the room, and so on.

Remember, the attorneys are out there and they always study history.

The author is director of sales for Rose Pest Solutions in Chicago. E-mail him at bpannkuk@giemedia.com.


Massey Services Incorporated Joins Forces with OCPS To Eliminate Cockroaches in Schools

Orlando, Fla.-based Massey Services recently assisted the Orange County (Fla.) Public Schools in addressing a pest problem at 22 schools districtwide. Every school in the district was inspected this spring by teams of leaders and key staff from the safety and security, maintenance, facilities, and food and nutrition departments. What they found were German cockroaches.

At some schools, the pests were found in the cafeteria, kitchen or both, requiring a shutdown of normal food service to students. The students were fed meals brought in from central kitchens and served in tents, alternate common areas or classrooms. Keeping away from the affected areas maintains food quality and clean service areas.

Tony Massey, president and COO of Massey Services, contacted Orange County Public Schools and a team of Massey Services professionals joined inspectors from OCPS and reviewed the 22 schools.

"We are happy to partner with Orange County Public Schools to ensure a safe environment for our children," Massey said. "This is consistent with what we know to be the mission of Orange County Public Schools. We are pleased to bring our industry-leading technical expertise to assist in solving this pest problem in the affected schools, and we will continue to work with the district and facility leaders to ensure a swift resolution."

OCPS Chief Operations Officer Michael Eugene said, "Thanks to Massey Services Inc. and their generous offer we are able to comprehensively address these schools and bring them back into service quickly."