Bed bugs are running rife at a sheltered housing complex

The bed at Barlings Court, Newmarket, which had an infestation of bed bugs. Picture: ROY BEARDSWORTH

The bed at Barlings Court, Newmarket, which had an infestation of bed bugs. Picture: ROY BEARDSWORTH - Credit: Archant

They are small blood-sucking insects that come out at night, biting exposed skin and feeding on your blood. Bed bugs. The very name is enough to keep you awake at night.

Pat Zapien, left, Iris Simpson, centre, and Shirley O'Neill, in the laundry at Barlings Court, in Ne

Pat Zapien, left, Iris Simpson, centre, and Shirley O'Neill, in the laundry at Barlings Court, in Newmarket. Picture: ROY BEARDSWORTH - Credit: Archant

For those living at Barlings Court, a sheltered housing complex for the over 60s in Newmarket, it is not just the fear of these tiny critters that is keeping them awake. They are experiencing a second infestation in 18 months.

Old beds have been chucked out onto the lawn in front of the complex and new mattresses have been delivered but the individuals and couples living there claim Flagship Housing, who run the site, are not doing enough to tackle the issue.

Roy Beardsworth, who is acting chairman of the residents’ association, said neighbours had been left covered in bites.

“The first person went to the doctors and was told it was a rash, he was just given some cream. The doctor didn’t realise it was actually bed bug bites.”

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Others then came out in similar rashes and it was later confirmed it was caused by bed bugs. Two more cases have been reported today, in two flats at opposite sides of the complex.

“I saw one woman yesterday and her arm was covered, it isn’t very pleasant,” said Mr Beardsworth.

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“Our fear now is that it is an infestation because the flats are so far apart.”

He admitted he and his neighbours are embarrassed to have visitors in case they are bitten or pick up the bugs and spread them to their own homes.

Mr Beardsworth and his neighbours at the site, off Fred Archer Way, feel they have been let down.

He said: “It’s just like being on a ship that’s sinking and the captain has left the bridge.

“Flagship Housing has just abandoned its residents with some of them suffering from dementia and unable to represent themselves.

“Flagship made our wardens redundant in March 2018 and we have been left to fend for ourselves.”

According to the NHS website, bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of and eradication is usually a job for the professionals.

It does advice washing infested clothes or bed linen at 60C, or putting them in a dryer on a hot setting for 30 minutes.

However, this is proving problematic for the residents because of a lack of laundry facilities.

“We are now into our third week with only one washing machine of two in the communal laundry working. This has been reported daily by residents as it has been an ongoing issue for over a year,” said Mr Beardsworth.

“So we have an infestation of bed bugs with one working washing machine for around 60 residents.”

A letter was circulated saying traps would be put in every flat as well as in communal areas but this is yet to happen.

A spokesman said: “We have had two further cases reported to us today. Again we responded quickly and I can confirm that pest control contractors are going to attend tomorrow and we have asked that all the flats are fitted with traps.”

What are bed bugs?

• adult bedbugs are oval-shaped, flat and up to 5mm long – similar to an apple seed, according to the NHS website.

• bedbugs aren’t dangerous and don’t spread any diseases, but some people experience a reaction to their bites and they can be stressful to live with

How to spot an infestation

• small bugs or tiny white eggs in the crevices and joints of your mattress and furniture

• bite marks on your skin

• tiny black spots on your mattress – this could be their dried faeces

• blood spots on your sheets – these can occur if you squash a bug after it has fed

• an unpleasant, musty scent in your bedroom

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