Article originally sourced from The Herald Bulletin
"ANDERSON — Jennifer True said she was not sure what to make of the rash on her son’s neck after an outing at Mounds Mall 10 Theatre.
“Last weekend my husband took our 5-year-old and 3-year-old sons to see Coco and when they got home, I just put them in their pajamas and put them to bed,” she said. “The next day my 3-year-old woke up with a rash.”
Unsure what had caused the rash, True, who lives in Pendleton, said she kept a close eye on the bumps.
“When he got another bump, I got a hold of my doctor and she confirmed it was bedbugs,” True said. “I think he picked up a bedbug at the movies and brought it home with him.”
She contacted both the Madison County Health Department and the movie theater on Friday.
“I can’t think of anywhere else he would have gotten it,” True said.
Unable to find a phone number for the movie theater, True sent an email to Gene Foster, general manager of Mounds Mall 10 Theatre.
“I am nearly certain that my son picked up bed bugs from your theater,” True said in the email. “Please contact me immediately.”
Foster responded with an email saying the theater is treated regularly and he has an affidavit from a pest control company that states the business is “bedbug free.”
True demanded proof of the bedbug free status and Foster said she would have to come to the theater because he was unable to email the document.
“He was extremely rude,” True said of the Foster’s emails. “His email interaction was not professional at all.”
When contacted, Foster denied that he was being rude to True.
“I responded to her email and tried to be matter of fact,” he said. “I’m not going to be apologetic about something we didn’t do or don’t have. I don’t know what else to do.”
Foster said the movie theater is inspected regularly for bedbugs after an allegation was made earlier this year and it is treated as a precautionary measure once a month.
“It was treated on Nov. 29,” he said. “An infestation can’t just pop up and we do what I consider to be more than what is necessary.”
Foster said the theater has been extremely busy and if there were any bedbugs, they would be getting a lot more calls. He said if there was any indication of bedbugs, “we would close down that auditorium until it was treated and taken care of.”
Jim Cook, owner of Cook’s Quality Pest Control in Anderson, confirmed that he inspects and treats the theater on a regular basis.
“He is open and transparent,” Cook said. “If Gene has what he even thinks is a bedbug, he calls us out there.”
Cook said because the movie theater is treated with a preventative spray, it is an unlikely place to pick up the parasites. He said bedbugs are a nuisance like fleas and “prolific” in Madison and Delaware counties.
Joe Davis, an environmental supervisor for the Madison County Health Department, said bedbugs are not known to transmit diseases and there are no legal requirements to notify people of public infestations.
“It’s tough proving where bedbugs come from,” Davis said. “Anyone can get them and it’s hard to hold someone accountable if you don’t know where they came from. We try to counsel people on who to call, which is a licensed professional for pest control.”
The United States Environmental Protection Agency lists bedbugs as a public health pest that can have “negative physical health, mental health and economic consequences.”
Not everyone has a reaction to bedbug bites, but others can have severe allergic reactions that can lead to secondary infections from the bites can include impetigo, ecthyma and lymphangitis, according to the USEPA.
Reported mental health issues associated with people living in homes infested with the bugs include anxiety, insomnia and systemic reactions.
Twenty-one states have enacted laws to prevent bedbug infestations within communities. Some of the regulations have existed for decades, others are more recent. Since 2005, nine states have passed new laws to address the parasites, according to the USEPA.
Indiana, however, was not listed by the USEPA as having specific laws to regulate bedbugs or subsequent infestations.
True said she is mortified that her son was exposed to bedbugs and has since removed his mattress and replaced it with a new one. She said legislators should pass a law to help protect people from bedbug infestations.
“This is a community health crisis,” she said. “I want to know I can go to the theater, the library and other places and not fear I’m going to get bedbugs.”