Bakersfield woman suspects bed bugs arrived in new furniture

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) A Bakersfield woman wants her new recliners replaced by the furniture company. Penny Holland is convinced the chairs arrived with bed bugs in them, though the company says that's not possible. The pests are a growing, new problem, and health experts say it's difficult to pinpoint exactly where the tiny insects come from.

"I had bought these two brand new recliners, and I started noticing these bites on my legs," Holland told Eyewitness News on Thursday. She showed a reporter a batch of red marks on her calves and feet. Holland said her doctor wasn't sure what caused that, but she started checking into bed bug bites.

"I finally called my pest control company," Holland said. "They checked my entire house, and they said that I have the two brand new recliners, and they're totally infested with bed bugs. I mean bad."

The two matching recliners are upholstered in dark brown fabric. Holland turned them over, and pulled back some tags, where small brown spots could be seen. She said a pest control technician told her these are bed bugs. She also pointed to white specks on the upholstery, saying those are bed bug eggs.

Holland got a report from Oxley Pest Control. It says the bed bug infestation is "mostly concentrated in the two recliners, and has spread to other areas of the home."

Holland said she bought the chairs from Oak Liquidators, and she reported the bed bug problem, but a company spokesman said it wasn't possible to get the pests in new furniture.

"This is an unusual complaint, we've never received one for new furniture," Kern County Chief Environmental Specialist Donna Fenton said. "I'm not sure what the likelihood is that the bed bugs would have been brought to that location."

Eyewitness News called Oak Liquidators and went to the store, and a reporter was told a spokesman would contact us about the situation.

Bed bugs have been making a comeback across the nation in recent years, according to information from the California Department of Health Services. The insects are small and wingless, and about a quarter inch long. They feed on blood, often at night.

"Bed bugs live in furniture such as couches, easy chairs, dressers, and night tables, as well as electronic devices such as alarm clocks and radios," reads information from the state health department.

Officials say the bugs do not spread disease, but the bites can cause red, itchy reactions on the skin.

Holland said the red marks on her feet and legs don't hurt, but there sure are a lot of them. And, she'd convinced the bed bugs arrived on the new chairs, because she noticed the bites three or four weeks after the furniture was delivered.

Bed bugs tend to "hitch-hike" on things like suitcases, backpacks, and jackets. That's how they spread from place to place. "We have no company, we do not travel," Holland says. That's why she's convinced they arrived on the new furniture.

And, she thinks that happened even though the chairs arrived wrapped up.

"Oxley says that doesn't prevent bed bugs from being there from the factory," Holland asserts. "From wrapping them, like packing them, from shipping them."

From the environmental health department, Fenton said her department does warn consumers to carefully check any used furniture for the presence of the pests, but she said it's not likely they would show up in new items.

Holland said the pest control technician found the bugs in the two new chairs, plus an older one that sits between them. She doesn't think her pets would have brought the bed bugs in. She says the dogs get frequent veterinarian care.

Holland also says her house is regularly treated by pest control, another reason she thinks the bugs only showed up with the new chairs.

The customer said she's made plans to have her home treated to get rid of the bed bugs, and she will pay for that. But, she thinks the furniture store should make good on the chairs.

"Just take these chairs," Holland says. "Come get them out of my house, let me have my house fumigated, give me two other new chairs."

An attorney for Oak Liquidators called Eyewitness News Thursday afternoon and said the odds are low that the bed bugs were on the recliners. It's not clear if the company will replace the furniture, like the customer wants.

At environmental health, Fenton said it's tough to pinpoint how the bugs got into Holland's home.

"Yes, it's suspicious. But still, it's very difficult to prove that (the bed bugs) weren't introduced on a piece of clothing, and that the person could have sat on the chair that they might have had on them," Fenton said. "There's really no way to trace where their origins were."

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