Health Alerts: Bedbugs 

 

In an effort to help preserve the well-being of the Ohio University community, the content of this site provides answers to frequently asked questions about bedbugs and the University's response to them.

What is a bedbug?

Bedbugs are insects that feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals. They are fast-moving insects that are nocturnal feeders, hiding during the day in dark, protected sites close to humans.

Adult bedbugs are slightly smaller than a lady bug or about the size of Lincoln's head on a penny. They are reddish-brown in color with flat oval-shaped bodies. Bedbugs are wingless insects with six legs. They cannot jump or fly.

The average lifespan of a bedbug is 12 to 18 months. Bedbugs can live for months without feeding.

Are bedbugs a concern at OHIO?

Bedbugs are a growing worldwide problem emanating from increased global travel and decreased use of pesticides. They have been found in five-star hotels, hospitals, major retail stores, government offices and college residence halls.

Bedbugs are most frequently found in dwellings where many people sleep and where there is a high rate of occupant turnover. They can travel easily on clothing, linens and furniture. Bedbugs do not discriminate against any social or economic status, and bedbug occurrences are generally not a reflection of poor hygiene or uncleanliness. 

Do bedbugs transmit disease?

Bedbugs are not known to transmit disease, including blood-borne diseases such as HIV or AIDS.

Although bedbug bites can cause severe itching, they are relatively harmless. An estimated three in 10 individuals exhibit no reaction to the bite of a bedbug.

When a bedbug bites, it releases a salivary liquid that can irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions over time. Scratching the bites can cause secondary infections and scarring. The amount of blood loss due to bedbug feeding typically does not adversely affect an individual. 

How do I know if I have bedbugs?

A bedbug occurrence can be identified by:

  • Tiny dark excrement stains or blood stains from crushed bedbugs that typically appear on sheets, pillowcases and mattresses and in seams, cracks or crevices of beds and furniture.
  • Molted skins and eggs shells, which look like small white-ish casings, that typically are found in seams, cracks or crevices of beds and furniture.
  • Crawling or dead bugs.
  • In cases of severe infestation, a musty sweet smell may be present.

Insect bites may also indicate the presence of bedbugs. Bedbug bites are identified by small welts similar to mosquito bites that appear in the morning or the middle of the night. These welts often occur in rows of three or more and can cause itching and discomfort.

A bedbug occurrence cannot be confirmed by examining a bite alone, and it is impossible for a medical professional to diagnose a bite as a bedbug bite. Insect bites, however, should be examined by a medical professional as they often mimic other conditions, such as scabies, contact dermatitis, poison ivy, and allergic reactions to detergents, body sprays, lotions, etc.

To check for bedbugs, examine areas around the bed and sleeping quarters for signs of bedbug activity, including excrement spots, skin casings and live or dead bugs. Bedbugs prefer areas around fabric, wood and paper. Areas that should be checked include: folds or seams in bedding and linens; seams, corners and buttons on mattresses and box springs; bedroom furniture, especially around the corners and crevices of headboards and footboards; and baseboards, moldings and carpet seams near and around the bed. Bedbugs often travel up, so you should also check the areas above your sleeping quarters, including artwork, wall hangings, curtains and walls. 

How can I prevent bedbugs?

Ohio University relies on its students, faculty and staff to assist in both preventing and containing any future bedbug occurrences. Here are some tips on how you can help prevent bedbugs:

  1. Learn to identify bedbugs and check regularly for signs of their presence.
  2. Do not bring infested items into your room or office. Be wary of any materials or items bought secondhand, including furniture, computers, books and clothing. If such items are purchased or otherwise acquired, they should be thoroughly inspected prior to being brought into a residence or office.
  3. Inspect your belongings, including any personal items that you set down in your residence hall or University office, before coming to campus and especially after traveling. If you are exposed to bedbugs, it is recommended that you place clothing in a dryer on the highest setting for 30 minutes, followed by washing and drying the clothing. A temperature of 122 degrees Fahrenheit is needed to kill bedbugs and their eggs.
  4. Keep rooms clean and tidy, eliminating areas for bedbugs to hide. Vacuum crevices and upholstery regularly.
  5. Vacuum mattresses frequently and make sure they don't have cracks or tears.
  6. Pull beds away from walls or other furniture, and tuck in sheets and other bedding to avoid contact with the floor or walls.
  7. If you suspect or discover bedbugs, please complete the online pest form at http://ehs.admsrv.ohio.edu/ehs/ and contact Environmental Health and Safety at 740-593-1666. Students living in the residence halls should also notify their residence hall director or residential coordinator. 

What is Ohio University doing to prevent bedbugs on campus?

Ohio University is very vigilant and proactive in its approach to controlling bedbugs and responds promptly to confirmed cases of bedbugs.

The University's Environmental Health and Safety Department is responsible for coordinating all aspects of environmental management, occupational health, safety on campus, and implementing safety regulations for Ohio University. As part of its duties, the department is responsible for responding to bedbug reports when they occur on campus.

In addition to creating an informational campaign aimed at educating the Athens Campus about bedbugs and bedbug prevention, the University relies on its internal experts in addressing bedbug issues. Those experts include Chad Keller, OHIO's environmental health coordinator who also sat on the Ohio Department of Health's Bedbug Workgroup; and Pete Trentacoste, executive director of Residential Housing who is recognized nationally as an expert in developing bedbug strategies for colleges and universities and who has spoken at the North American Bedbug Summit.

What should I do if I think there may be bedbugs in my Ohio University residence hall, office or building?

Please complete the online pest form at http://ehs.admsrv.ohio.edu/ehs/ and contact Environmental Health and Safety at 740-593-1666. Students living in the residence halls should also notify their residence hall director or residential coordinator.

Environmental Health and Safety will contact you promptly to arrange an inspection of the area of concern. Do not spray over-the-counter pesticides, use home remedies or otherwise attempt to correct the situation yourself. Such actions are more likely to exacerbate the situation or cause it to spread. 

How does Ohio University respond to reports of bedbugs?

Ohio University takes bedbug reports very seriously and has implemented a comprehensive pest management program to confirm suspected cases and to mediate confirmed cases. Each bedbug incident is evaluated to determine the most appropriate detection and treatment technique.

When a bedbug is found in a residence hall, the residential coordinator or residence hall director will e-mail all students in that particular building to notify them that a live bedbug has been identified in a room within that residence hall. The University does not make public in which room the bedbug was found or who lives in that particular room.

If a bedbug is found in an office environment on campus, individuals who work near areas where the confirmed case has been found will be informed by their department/s. Environmental Health and Safety will determine who should be notified based on several factors, including location, the degree of infestation and the amount of traffic traveling through that particular area.

Have there been reports of bedbugs at Ohio University?

The Athens Campus has had seven confirmed bedbug occurrences since the fall of 2011 – a small number for a residential campus that houses nearly 8,000 students in 42 residence halls. To date, all confirmed bedbug occurrences on the Athens Campus have occurred in residence halls. 

Why are college campuses susceptible to bedbugs?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone is at risk for getting bedbugs when visiting an infected area. However, individuals who travel frequently and share living and sleeping quarters where others have previously slept have a higher risk of being bitten and/or spreading bedbugs. 

How do bedbugs spread?

Bedbugs are notorious hitchhikers. While they are generally not carried on your person, they are known for traveling from areas of infestation on personal possessions, including clothing, furniture, bedding and suitcases.