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FALL 2010
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Bed Bug Expert Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann Offers Advice to Afflicted City

By Erica Rhodin ’12

Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
John Carberry

Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann speaks to reporters in Manhattan.

With the recent resurgence of bed bugs in New York City, almost every other phone call she receives is about bed bugs, says Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, PhD ’99, senior extension associate for the New York State Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program and chair of the New York City Bed Bug Advisory Board.

Bed bug complaints to New York City housing officials skyrocketed to almost 11,000 in 2009, up from fewer than 500 in 2004; city officials recorded a 240 percent spike in bed bug violations in private rental housing from 2006 to 2009.

The pesky bugs do not carry dangerous diseases, and only about 30 percent of people react to their bites. But bed bugs can trigger sleeplessness and anxiety in those combating an infestation, Gangloff-Kaufmann says.

The key to eradication is awareness. “Awareness is prevention, prevention is the cure,” says Gangloff-Kaufmann, who was one of 20 experts who helped develop guidelines for New York City, which include a bed bug task force and a broad education campaign.

To get rid of an infestation, one must “be absolutely vigilant,” Gangloff-Kaufmann emphasizes. She recommends intensive cleaning, informing the landlord, and communicating with neighbors. For serious problems, an exterminator may be necessary. The only way to know for sure if the bugs are gone is to sleep in the bed and not get bitten, a test no one wants to conduct.

Gangloff-Kaufmann discourages New Yorkers from picking up discarded furniture on the street. What seems like a great freebie is actually a direct route to infestation, she says, adding that in Ithaca, for example, “there is this whole culture that embraces recycling, and that is great, but this is one of the avenues that bed bugs can use.”

Gangloff-Kaufmann stresses that there is no single solution to an infestation, not even pesticides, and that an integrated, tailored approach to each situation is needed.

Despite the magnitude of the problem, Gangloff-Kaufmann is optimistic. “I think we’re going toward heightened public awareness spearheaded by the media,” she says.