The City of Brotherly Love is known for many things. Having bed bugs, unfortunately, is one of them.

These pests are particularly difficult to control in affordable housing. According to a study by Rutgers University Entomologist Changlu Wang, who inspected 2,372 low-income apartments in 43 buildings in four New Jersey cities in 2016, bed bug infestation rates in community living facilities average 12.3 percent.

Unfortunately, current control strategies often fail to achieve long-term success with the pests re-emerging or being reintroduced and starting the cycle of infestation all over again.

But a new, program-based approach tested at a 470-unit affordable housing community in Philadelphia proved bed bug control and prevention is not only possible but sustainable.

The two-year pilot, called the Affordable Housing Control and Prevention Program for Bed Bugs or ATAHC (pronounced “attack”), is a proactive versus reactive approach that targeted the entire living community, not just individual units with bed bug problems.

The ATAHC Program was developed by Allergy Technologies, manufacturer of ActiveGuard® Mattress Liners. Support was provided by Philadelphia Councilmember Mark Squilla, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, its property management company, leading industry researchers and pest control companies.

According to Joseph Latino, president of Allergy Technologies, significant results were achieved in the pilot program’s first year:

Corbett Exterminating, which specializes in pest control for multi-unit housing and is the provider of record for the Philadelphia housing complex, was eager to approach bed bug control in a different way to end the cycle of reinfestations of this pest.

“It’s not doing justice to the community and to the people who live there to just continue to kill bed bugs over and over. That doesn’t improve their ‘quality of life’; it just maintains the situation as it is,” explained Charles Cerbini, executive vice president of the Mountainside, N.J.-based company.

Cerbini said implementing the new prevention-based protocol wasn’t difficult because Corbett Exterminating was already using similar control tactics in its affordable housing accounts. It was employing these tactics community-wide in a cohesive manner that made all the difference in the success of the program, he pointed out.