Bedbug incident at dorms eradicated

One area where an outbreak of bed bugs was reported. Photo by Sam Rice

Resident buildings at UAA have witnessed five separate incidences of bedbugs over the past three years – two of which occurred this month.

Bedbugs were found in a North Hall dorm room and in a room in Main Apartment Complex (MAC) 1 at the beginning of the semester – an occurrence “not uncommon, because a lot of people travel over Christmas,” said Jody Inman, the Associate Director of Housing.

The minor flare-up of the night crawlers at the beginning of the month has been eradicated, according to Housing Management. Eagle Pest Control was hired to apply high-heat treatment intended to dehydrate and kill the bugs in the infested rooms. Dogs used to detect the bugs will return in a month to ensure the treatment worked.

Inman detailed that such measures would be taken for any student that suspected they might have nighttime visitors snacking on them.

“When it happens, we bring Eagle in and they bring the dog,” Inman explained. “If they do have them, then we’re going to have them evacuate the room and we’re going to have the heat treatment come in. Its expensive but it’s the best way to solve this problem. A month later, after the treatment, we come back in with the dog to make sure.” Inman stated that 96-97 percent of the time, the canine inspection is accurate.

Randy Beuter, owner of Eagle Pest Control, says that early detection and reporting are key to exterminating the bugs. According to Beuter, the heat treatment is the best way to kill bedbugs and does not advocate for using pesticides.

“The absolutely worst thing anybody can do is use the insect bombs,” Beuter said. He further explained using pesticides in any way not intended is a felony.

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“Say there is a product called Bug-B-Gone. If it does not say for use on a bed, you can’t use it on a bed,” Beuter stated. “Pesticides also tend to cause bed bugs to scatter,” he added.

Betty Fenn, Director of UAA’s Student Health and Counseling Center, addressed the health issues of using insecticides on an informational blog on SHCC’s website.

“Cases of flu-like symptoms have been reported after indoor use of insecticides in homes and schools with misapplication or failure to fully ventilate the rooms after application,” the post explains. “Symptoms of insecticide poisoning may include headache, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, loss of appetite with nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.”

From 2003 to 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 100 illnesses related to insecticides used for killing bedbugs in only seven states, according to CDC’s website. One death also occurred in North Carolina after overuse of an insecticide.

Inman states that despite the rise seen in bedbug cases across the nation and Alaska, the situation remains under control on UAA’s campus.

“The bedbug situation is primarily that they are being carried up here,” he said. “They are not in abundance. We’re not going to have them in every single MAC.”

While Inman explained preventative measures, such as advocacy plaques in each dormitory, were too expensive, education and awareness are a large part of bedbug control Housing is implementing.

“One of the things that we tell people is that education is the biggest thing behind these things right now,” Inman said. “It’s trying to help people understand that these things can be anywhere.”

Inman believes paranoia is often present when people become concerned about bedbugs.

“Bedbugs are like mosquitoes. They are pests. When people think of them they assume, ‘Oh my god we have this problem and it’s disgusting.’ I mean bugs are bugs,” Inman said.

“There’s a certain amount of fear people have about these things,” he explained. “But you may not have them. You want to be careful about mass hysteria.”

Even with hasty complaints, Housing remains concerned, according to Inman.

“Each time we have an individual case, we’ll look at it and test it, and take care of it.”

In the meantime, UAA’s bedbug problem is taken care of.

“They’re gone,” Inman said.