On the weekend of Sept. 1-3, Jonathan Chang, FCLC ’09, said that he began waking up with itchy red welts all over his body in his dorm room on the 13th floor of McMahon Hall.
The situation persisted for several days, and Chang said that he and his roommates checked WebMD.com in an attempt to diagnose the problem. After matching his symptoms to those listed on the site, Chang said they believed he might have a case of bed bugs.
New York City has seen a recent resurgence of the oval-shaped, wingless insects, according to a recent New York Times article. The article reported a 71 percent increase in the number of calls to exterminators about bed bugs and stated that city and health officials have been unable to pinpoint the reason for the bugs’ sudden prevalence.
According to various medical websites, while bed bugs pose no extensive health risk, they are an extreme irritant and can cause allergic reactions in some people. In addition, the New York Times reported that bed bugs spread easily and can crawl between homes and dorms, through floors, walls and ceilings.
Chang said he went to Health Services for treatment and was told to come back if he got any more bites.
However, Kathleen Malara, registered nurse and director of student health services, said that there have been “no reports of bed bugs or insect bites…in Health Services” to date.
If a student does encounter bedbugs, Malara said he or she “should be treated with a [topical] cream rinse applied to the entire body…All intimate contacts and close household and family members should also be treated.” She also recommends that the person’s clothing, bedding and towels be washed. Chang said that Leslie Timoney, McMahon Hall facilities manager, helped him with the infestation.
Timoney said that she spoke with Chang several times about the possible bed bug infestation, as she speaks with every resident who places a pest control work order. “I need to know what they have, when and where they saw it, and when did the problem start,” she said.
Amy Schack, director of Residential Life, told The Observer that any student who complains of maintenance problems, including bed bugs, is referred to Timoney.
Addressing pest prevention in McMahon, Timoney, like Malara, said the student should wash all of his or her clothing and bedding in a case of infestation. The student should also vacuum the room and return the vacuum immediately in order to dispose of the bag. According to Timoney, facilities will change the mattress, exterminating both the old and new ones, and arrange to put glue boards in the room to confirm that there are in fact bedbugs.
Timoney also noted that the mattresses in McMahon are changed every five years.
As means of pest prevention, Timoney said, no personal furniture is allowed in the dorms, except for beds permitted by doctors’ notes and organizational shelves and storage bins.
Chang said he followed bed bug protocol, as per Timoney’s instructions, by cleaning his entire room, throwing out his pillow, fumigating his mattress, and washing all his clothes. In light of New York City’s increase in bed bug cases, Timoney offers students this advice: “I would just warn seniors to buy new when they get their first apartment after college.”