Prince William County supervisors met to argue over the county’s tax rate Tuesday, and there was a chance there would be some literal bloodsuckers in the room.
The county complex is facing a bedbug infestation, and a county spokesperson said the county had no plans to publicly warn the large crowd of students, parents, and community members expected at Tuesday’s board meetings.
An employee spotted bedbug exoskeletons, molted by the appleseed-sized insects, in a building behind the McCoart Administration Building where board meetings are held, according to county spokesman Jason Grant. That led the Department of Public Works to call in bug-sniffing dogs, who indicated that the pests were present in the McCoart building too, including in the budget office, communication office and main lobby.
Grant initially said on Tuesday that the county had not yet taken steps to remove the bugs, but later said he learned that the McCoart building had been treated on Monday. He said the building would be checked again to determine whether the effort was successful.
Grant also said the county has contracted with Orkin Pest Control to remove the bugs, a process that includes pesticides and steam treatment to kill the critters with chemicals and heat.
During two meetings Tuesday, county supervisors were to set the advertised tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year. Some among an overflow crowd of hundreds stood on the balcony and sat on chairs in the lobby. But well into the meeting, no one had brought up the bedbug problem.
Grant said the county would not publicly warn visitors about the itchy, hard-to-remove creatures, since doing so would only “create hysteria.”
He said the bugs were detected in the lobby, the mail room, on a couch in the budget office and a computer bag in the communications office. The couch and computer bag were removed, he said.
However, he said before the meeting that anyone who was aware of the infestation might want to keep their purses and laptop bags off the floor when visiting the building, since bugs can sneak in and come home in their bags. Visitors might also consider removing their shoes and shaking them out before getting into their cars, Grant said.
He said they could avoid wearing cuffed pants where bugs can lurk, and they could put their clothing and bags in a dryer for half an hour to kill any stowaway bugs with the heat.
“It has nothing to do with cleanliness. There’s nothing you can really do to prevent them,” Grant said. “It’s not a huge health risk. It’s just one of those things that’s a nuisance.”
The bugs do not spread disease, but the itchiness caused when they suck human blood in the night has been known to lead to skin and mental health problems.