Public health educator weighs in on a pest of a problem

Daniel Holdiman shows off tiny, red bumps on his body after getting out of the Adams County jail.

Bed bugs, lice, scabies -- none of us like the thought of any of them.

However, a public health educator says they're a reality that all of us need to think more about.

Last week, we brought you a story about a former Adams County jail inmate who claimed he got bed bugs from the Adams County jail.

That same public health educator isn't so sure about the bed bug conclusion, but the story did catch his eye.

Daniel Holdiman said he became miserably itchy when he was moved to a new section of the Adams County jail. He was treated with an ointment cream called Permethrin after getting out of jail. Holdiman says the tiny red bumps got better with treatment and after getting out of the jail environment.

Dr. Richard Pollack teaches public health at Harvard, Boston University and Tufts University. He also identifies pests through his company called


. Pollack looked at the photos on our website, and told KHQA he doesn't think Holdiman's ailment was caused by bed bugs. But he says Holdiman's story should serve as a wake-up call to jails, prisons, schools and offices that have a lot of people in close quarters.

"There's no indication that his complaints were due to a biting creature," he said. "Fiber glass fibers in the environment, other irritants can cause skin lesions that are easily mistaken to be a bite."

Pollack said bed bugs are overdiagnosed in prison and jail systems.

"The gold standard is actually find the creature that has caused the injury," he said. "So you find a bug, if it's a bed bug, it's a bed bug. If it's a flea, it's a flea and so on and so forth. If it's a scabies mite, you're not going to see that unless you have phenomenal eye sight. You need a microscope and you need to scrape the skin in a particular way to do that."

Sheriff Brent Fischer said the Adams County jail was found to be in compliance in a recent Department of Corrections' audit. He said all inmates shower and are loused before they're taken back to a jail cell. But Pollack says he's not an advocate of the lousing procedure.

"There's this assumption that there's a justification to treat everybody who walks in the door in handcuffs," Pollack said. "That's an incredible exaggeration as to their prevalence, and there's no need to treat them unless they truly are infested, so treating everyone wastes money. It's unjustified, could cause a few people some injury, but also, it opens up the prison system to some amount of liability."

Pollack wants to encourage area jails, schools and offices to learn more about identifying and treating pests that thrive on the human body.