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By Michaelangelo Conte
The Jersey Journal

JERSEY CITY, N.J. - Blood-sucking bedbugs infesting a Jersey City multi-family home triggered a huge hazmat response after sheriff's officers making an arrest found the place crawling with the critters and came under the attack of their bites yesterday, officials said.
"That's gross," said Denise Robinson as she pushed her 1-year-old son Wudul in a stroller near the residence at Wilkinson and Ocean avenues. "I'm surprised, but this is the ghetto - you see a little bit of everything - mice, roaches, rats."
The Jersey City Fire Department sent numerous trucks and firefighters to the location and quickly set up a shower and decontamination tent in the middle of Wilkinson.
Five sheriff's officers and 10 residents of the building were quarantined in the building until they could be scrubbed under the shower and then stripped in the tent.
They emerged wearing white coveralls and at least some were then led to ambulances waiting nearby.
At about 9 a.m., the sheriff's officers went to the home to look into a domestic dispute and inside they found suspected drugs and drug paraphernalia, Hudson County Sheriff Juan Perez said.
They arrested two residents and began a search, but when they flipped a mattress they were confronted by an army of crawling insects.
"A lot of bedbugs," explained Detective Vito Aiello while sitting in an ambulance handcuffed to one of the men charged after both had been stripped, washed and scrubbed. As they began to feel the bedbugs' bites, Aiello said, "We spoke to a resident and she said the place was infested."
The Fire Department responded in force and while setting up the decontamination equipment several firefighters donned hazmat suits and air tanks and went into the building to assess the situation. Fire Director Armando Roman said they came to the conclusion that the culprits were bedbugs.
Among the residents who waited on the porch to be decontaminated were a number of small children and a woman in a wheelchair. A crowd of neighbors behind the police tape watched as the residents were led from the building to be scrubbed just before noon.
City health inspectors are issuing the landlord, Virgil Humphrey of Powder Springs, Ga., an order to exterminate immediately and if he does not comply within seven days, the city can take him to court, Jersey City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill said. The city is not ordering the building sealed and the residents were being allowed to return home immediately, Morrill said.
"The bedbugs are not like a tick or mosquito that carry disease, they are literally a nuisance or pest, and it's is not a health issue that requires closing the building," Morrill said.
James Lashomb, a professor of entomology at Rutgers University, said there is currently a severe outbreak of bedbugs in America, and Morrill says the city has seen a "sharp increase" as well.
"In 34 years I've never seen anything like this," said Sheriff's Department Chief of Operations Capt. John Bartucci.

Wire Service
 
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