Bed bugs Sheffield: High Green care home residents 'treated like prisoners' as communal areas made off-limits

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"We're allowed to go out and we're allowed visitors but we've been told not to congregate within the care home, not even to visit our neighbours in their flats"

A bed bug alert at a Sheffield care home has left some residents feeling like 'prisoners' in their own homes after communal areas were declared off-limits.

The tiny insects which often live on furniture and bedding, and feed on the blood of animals and humans, were discovered earlier this year at Ernest Copley House, on Peckham Road, in High Green.

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Ernest Copley House in High Green, SheffieldErnest Copley House in High Green, Sheffield
Ernest Copley House in High Green, Sheffield | Google

Maureen Lunn, who lives at the Sheffield City Council-run home, told The Star that residents there had first reported being bitten back in February 2022.

She feels the council was too slow to act in the first place and has taken too long to eradicate the bugs after their presence was confirmed, leaving people unable to congregate for weeks.

'Difficult and frustrating time' for residents

The council said it recognised this had been a 'very difficult and frustrating time' for residents but that treatments were booked in as soon as the infestation was identified and it hoped the building would soon be fully clear.

Speaking to The Star, Ms Lunn said: "It will be two years in February since people first reported that they were getting bitten in the middle room communal lounge but nothing was done about it at the time.

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"When they eventually discovered the bed bugs, they closed the lounge at the start of August and since then they've closed the library, the breakfast room and the communal kitchen.

"We're allowed to go out and we're allowed visitors from outside the home but we've been told not to congregate within the home, not even to visit our neighbours in their flats.

'We're being treated like prisoners in our own homes'

"We pay a lot of money to live here and we're being treated like prisoners in our own homes. It's like we're in solitary confinement.

"I've been told I can't even go to see my 85-year-old neighbour, who doesn't see anybody from one week to the next, to make her a drink and have a chat.

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"It's so frustrating. Yes, it's about health and safety but it's also about care and it feels like there's no care anymore. People just aren't interested."

Bed bug bites can be itchy but rarely cause any serious harmBed bug bites can be itchy but rarely cause any serious harm
Bed bug bites can be itchy but rarely cause any serious harm | Getty Images

The Star has seen a letter from the council addressed to a resident at Ernest Copley House which states 'we are aware that you have taken part in gatherings within communal areas along with other residents'.

The letter continues: "In doing so, your actions are compromising the work being put in place to ensure that all communal facilities will be fully operational and for the whole building to be bed bug free."

What has council said about approach to tackling bed bugs?

Sheffield City Council said that residents' flats and communal areas were being monitored regularly, with treatments taking place wherever bed bugs are found.

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It added that its environmental services team had advised residents to be careful when mixing, to prevent bed bugs spreading, and had been giving advice to staff and tenants.

Councillor Penny Baker, deputy chair of the council's housing policy committee, said: "We understand that this has been a very difficult and frustrating time for residents at Ernest Copley House.

"Thankfully, the treatment programme that we have put in place has been very effective. At last month’s inspection, only 2 flats had bed bugs and they have been treated.

"The next inspection date is on the 4th December and we are hopeful that the building will be fully clear. We will continue to make sure that we support residents on this issue."

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What are bed bugs, how do you know if you have them and how bad are the bites?

Bed bugs are small insects which often live on furniture or bedding but can also be found in other places including on clothing, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper.

They can be dark yellow, red or brown, with adults measuring around 5mm long. According to the NHS, their bites can be itchy but do not usually cause other health problems.

Tell-tale signs of bed bugs include bites, often on exposed areas of skin like the face, neck and arms, while sleeping; spots of blood on your bedding (from the bites or a squashed bed bug); and small brown spots (bed bug poo) on your bedding or furniture.

Bed bug bites usually clear up on their own but to help reduce itching and any swelling you can put something cool, like a clean, damp cloth, on the affected area. People are also advised to avoid scratching the bites to prevent getting an infection.

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If the bites are really bothering you, you can seek advice from a pharmacist about getting a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone (children under 10 and pregnant women should get advice from a doctor before using hydrocortisone cream) or using antihistamines.

What should you do avoid getting bed bugs and to get rid of them?

The NHS advises anyone who thinks they have bed bugs to contact their local council or pest control service as it is very difficult to get rid of bed bugs yourself.

Things you can do include washing bedding and clothes at a high temperature (60C), putting affected bedding and clothes in a plastic bag and storing it in the freezer for three to four days, and cleaning and vacuuming regularly to help you spot bed bugs early.

People are advised to avoid keeping clutter around their beds, not to bring second-hand furniture indoors without carefully checking it first, and to check luggage or clothing carefully before bringing it indoors if you have come from somewhere known to be affected by bed bugs.

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