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12 ON YOUR SIDE

Health care workers plan to petition Gov. on bed bug problem

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A response tonight from the Governor's Office about bed bug problems in Virginia. Health care workers plan to petition the governor to urge the legislature to take action. 12 on Your Side first brought us the story earlier this week. 

I got a one sentence response from the governor's office this afternoon: "For all bed bug questions, please contact the Virginia Department of Health." Meantime, the nurse who made the original complaint has a fight ahead, and she knows it. 

"We're out here because my house is currently being fumigated again for bed bugs," said Nurse Jocelyn Perkins. 

Money matters to the young wife and mother. Her bed bug infested mattresses and all that furniture represent thousands of dollars lost in addition to the cost of exterminating. 

"I'm going to have to throw it away and buy a new one. You could see the eggs and everything inside the wood," Jocelyn said. "They're not that easy to get rid of. I'm having to spend $1500 out of my own pocket to get rid of them." 

Nurse Jocelyn Perkins believes she got the bed bugs from a Fan district retirement apartment building where she works caring for patients four hours a day, and unknowingly brought them home to her husband and daughter. 

"That's traumatic when you're waking up and you're itching and scratching. All these red bumps on your arms. My daughter's too young to go through that. I feel bad because I brought them in the house," she said. 

She also believes the building managers knew they had a bed bug infestation and failed to tell the health care providers. 

"If they had done so, I would have protected myself," Perkins said. "We can wear booties. We could have worn protective covering as far as painters wear to put over our clothes to stop us from transmitting the bed bugs." 

Transmitting is the scary word here, health care workers picking up bed bugs on the job, taking them home then passing them to other homes on patient visits. 

"I went into this field. I care for people, I just would have prepared. You know there are all kinds of diseases out there that we protect ourselves with standard precautions anyway," she said. 

Bed bug infestation is a new and growing problem and few people want to comment or even know what to say about questions of worker's compensation or prior disclosure. 

The Virginia Nurses Association says it's "concerned about any situation that jeopardizes the health and safety of nurses in the workplace as well as the public at large" and advises nurses to "follow procedures outlined by their employer". 

"Not all information is divulged and it's not fair especially concerning bed bugs. It's becoming a bigger and bigger issue and nobody's addressing it. So I'm going to address it," Jocelyn said. 

Another health care worker is alleging she got bed bugs while providing care to clients in their homes. She contacted me after my original report two days ago. I'm efforting to get her story on camera. 

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