According to Paul Curtis, B.C.E., Director, National Accounts Service Quality for Terminix, universities and colleges throughout the country are being challenged with bed bug activity -- many getting un-wanted media attention as a result. He offers the following observations on what facility managers can do to address parents’ and students’ growing focus on bed bugs and dormitory living
Pursue a higher level of education. “Not surprisingly, education is the number-one step that many schools stress when it comes to bedbug prevention,” says Curtis. “And I agree.” Information posted on bulletin boards, school websites and newspapers helps students recognize signs and avoid actions that may increase exposure to bed bugs. Equally important is dissemination of guidelines on what students should do if they suspect bed bug infestation in their dorm room or belongings.
“Schools have different policies, and it is important that students know what they are,” explains Curtis. “The sooner bed bug suspicions are reported, the sooner the problem can be contained and resolved.”
Many schools, particularly ones that have had heavy or repetitive infestations, conduct regular internal education for staff and have their own inspection and treatment programs in place.
Not a job for the undergraduate. Curtis notes that the worst case situations are those in which students are embarrassed to report bed bugs and hesitate to take action for an extended period of time. Equally challenging are situations in which students attempt to treat the problem themselves.
Stoy Hedges, an entomologist with Terminix, cautions that bed bug infestations are not something that students or colleges should attempt to handle on their own. A recent report in the Journal of Economic Entomology reported that over-the-counter foggers have been proven ineffective and are not recommended for use in cases of bed bug infestation.
Terminix uses a process called RapidFreeze in which a patented nozzle transforms liquid carbon dioxide into a dry ice “snow” that effectively freezes and kills bed bugs in fewer than 60 seconds. The artic-cold air blast (-80°C) penetrates cracks and crevices. It can be used just about anywhere and does not damage electrical components.
Share the responsibility. Curtis points out that students and parents are more concerned about getting bed bugs at school than bringing them to school. Students and parents have high expectations about what the school should do to protect them. In fact, the problem can go both ways. Schools typically are limited in what they can do or not do about students’ personal belongings relative to bed bugs.
“In general, students should be provided with information on bed bug identification, biology and how to inspect,” says Curtis. “Students should keep personal belongings secure and contained until they have performed a thorough inspection of the dorm, paying particular attention to the area around the bed.”
The room and the student’s shoes should be vacuumed thoroughly, more than once. Student clothes and bedding should be laundered before placement in the dorm, especially if students use public transportation to get back to school.
Students should avoid using second hand furniture, unless it has been sanitized properly. Used mattresses should be encased with a bite-proof encasement before being introduced to the room. Students should inspect shared items regularly, and examine the dorm room carefully after having visitors. Any suspected bed bug evidence or activity should be promptly reported to the school.
Open registration for bed bugs. Bed bugs don’t typically observe the school calendar and can matriculate into facilities at any time during the school year – and beyond. “Bed bugs can show up at any time, and will tend to be most active when there are hosts present,” says Curtis. “More hosts equals more activity. Certainly there is less activity reported when there are fewer students, and more activity reported when there are more students.” Curtis suggests that school staff perform inspections and treatments during breaks or holidays when there is less possibility of displacing students should treatment be necessary.
As for students returning from semesters abroad, the same steps should work no matter where they traveled. “Know what to look for, inspect, sanitize or launder personal items and bedding, vacuum suitcases and shoes before entering the room, and report any suspected activity promptly,” add Curtis