Sleeping with the enemy: Bed bug infestations on the rise

Mothers around the country aren’t kidding when they tell their children, “Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

Recently, a Nike store in Manhattan shut down because of a bed bug infestation. The Sirius XM studios also had bed bugs. And, four dorm rooms at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania were infested with bed bugs. These and other recent reports prompted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue a joint statement informing the public about bed bugs.

Ron Harrison, technical services director for Orkin Pest Control, said that bed bugs are very common and are found in one out of every hundred hotel rooms. He said they may be found in dorm rooms as well.

“I don’t think there’s a college campus in the U.S. that hasn’t been exposed to beg bugs,” said Harrison. “Athletes and others who travel tend to track them into dorms.”

However, Rod Colas, associate director for the Office of Residential Life and Housing, said that NSU dorms haven’t had any issues with bed bugs. Colas said that bed bugs are not naturally present in dorms and that they usually appear when students bring something into the room, like a couch.

“Our mattresses are anti-bacterial and have latex in them,” said Colas. “They are impervious to bed bugs. They can’t even live in them. A lot of schools have been using these mattresses.”

Colas said that NSU dorms are inspected regularly. He said dorms go through a health and safety inspection every October and any issues found must be addressed within 24 hours.

“We talk to them [students] in terms of making sure they keep their rooms clean,” Colas said. “Resident assistants go over the rules and regulations with them.”

Colas said that resident assistants rely on students to inform them of bed bugs. If a student reports bed bugs, pest control is hired and resident assistants make sure that students wash their clothes and linens in the room.

“It can spread very rapidly so we have to stay on top of those things,” Colas said. “Our staff follows up with that particular student.”

Harrison said that good hygiene helps ward off bed bugs.

“The more cluttered your room is, the harder they are to find,” he said. “Often, they’re in the headboard of the bed or the box spring.”

Harrison said that students should inspect their suitcases and the places where they sleep if they are spending the night outside of their dorm. They should also make sure that others who visit their dorms and bring suitcases don’t carry bed bugs with them.

Harrison said that although students living in dorms do not have to worry about bed bugs, they should be aware of them and avoid habits that would attract them.

According to Harrison, a sign of bed bugs is a black ink-like stain on bed sheets. This stain is the bed bugs’ fecal matter.

He also recommends that students use mattress encasements and place plastic encasements, called climbups, near bed posts. Bed bugs can crawl into the climbups, but cannot get out and die.

According to Harrison, adult bed bugs are the size of apple seeds while the babies are much smaller. They are nocturnal and feed on blood. He said that bed bugs do not spread disease, but that the bites might become irritated and infected if the person scratches them.

“Most people do not feel the bite at all,” Harrison said. “Even if you’re awake, there’s only a 10 percent chance that you’ll feel it.”

Harrison said that professionals use both chemical and non-chemical methods to eradicate bed bugs. Some non-chemical methods include heating, freezing or steaming the bed bugs. They also use dry ice because the carbon dioxide released by the dry ice is poisonous to the bugs. If a toxic method is used, it will be one that is least toxic to people, kills the bugs quickly and lasts a long time.

“If the professional does a good job, then the chances are very, very low that they will return unless you are frequenting a hotel that has bed bugs,” Harrison said. “If the service is done properly then that population should be eradicated.”

Rajiv Radhakishun, freshman business major who lives in the Commons Residence Hall, said that he has never had trouble with bed bugs, but that he would get a new mattress if he ever did.

“I’m concerned now,” he said. “I’m going to search my bed for bed bugs.”

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