The B.C. government is cleaning and treating two court facilities in downtown Vancouver and considering preventive measures, such as getting rid of carpets and upholstered furniture at one location, after bedbugs were found at both sites.
The unwelcome discovery is likely to trigger stepped-up scrutiny at courthouses around the province, said Kevin Jardine, assistant deputy minister of the Court Services Branch of the Ministry of Justice.
"Now that we are alive to this issue, it's quite likely that we will be both training regular cleaning staff to look for signs and potentially if we see anything, we won't hesitate to bring somebody in," Mr. Jardine said, referring to pest control contractors.
Bedbugs were found just before Christmas at the Downtown Community Court, triggering an inspection of the nearby provincial courthouse at 222 Main St., where inspections also turned up bedbugs.
The two sites are a block apart in the city's Downtown Eastside, where bedbugs are a recurring problem in rundown single-room occupancy hotels, many of which are slated for renovation.
At the Community Court, which opened in 2008, bedbugs were found in a courtroom but not in staff areas, Mr. Jardine said. That facility was designed with mostly hard surfaces and was relatively easy to clean.
At 222 Main, one of the busiest of the 44 courthouses in the province, inspections turned up pests in three courtrooms, some public areas and a barristers' lounge. Upholstered furniture and carpeting means inspections are taking longer.
Contractors are using cleaning and chemical treatments to eliminate the bedbugs, Mr. Jardine said.
Information sessions are planned to update employees on pest-control measures and tips to avoid taking bedbugs home with them.
Bedbugs, about the size of an apple seed, feed on the blood of humans, birds and other animals. They do not carry disease but bites can be itchy and painful and infestations expensive and difficult to control.
Some agencies have taken extraordinary measures. The Lux, a social housing complex opened in 2009, was built with a bedbug sauna to eliminate the pests from residents' furniture and belongings. The unit heats furniture, clothes and even books to a temperature of 67 C for at least 24 hours to kill the bugs.
Bed bugs can turn up in a variety of buildings and it is not surprising some have been detected in court buildings, said James Green, branch manager for pest control company Orkin Canada.
"Bedbugs are hitchhikers and they transport themselves on our belongings, generally," said Mr. Green, whose firm uses a sniffer dog to detect the pests. "We can find them in department stores, libraries, law courts – it does happen on occasion."