By Samantha Reid
Chicago has the highest incidences of bed bugs of any city in the nation, according to Orkin’s 2013 Bed Bug Cities list, and Roosevelt University is no exception to this problem. Students received an email from Residence Life about bed bugs in student housing earlier this month.
Bed bugs are transported easily from place to place on upholstered surfaces like clothing and bags, making it difficult to ensure they’re kept out of the Wabash Building or University Center.
The city atmosphere lends to a greater risk of infestation, with dorms, apartment buildings and hotels housing so many people in such close quarters.
While the university’s Office of Residence Life couldn’t be reached for comment on the matter, it did send out an informational message to all students on what to do in case of bed bugs.
The tips are meant for on-campus housing but also apply to students living off campus.
While the suggestions are well meaning, some may be difficult to actually put into everyday practice.
“Unpack your luggage directly into a plastic bag,” the Office of Residence Life suggests for returning from a trip off campus. “Immediately take your clothing to a clothes dryer and dry for 20 minutes at a high heat cycle of at least 120 degrees.”
While these tips are the general advice in bug bed prevention, reiterated by the Environmental Protection Agency, they may be difficult for college students with paid, communal laundry facilities and busy schedules to follow.
City resident and Loyola University student Gillian McGhee knows the irritation of having bed bugs infiltrate the home. Her Rogers Park apartment was host to the pests three times over the course of four months.
McGhee said she was having trouble sleeping, which was the first sign of the infestation.
“I went to the doctor and asked if it was bed bugs, and she said, ‘No, it’s just allergies,’” McGhee said. “It wasn’t until a month later that I noticed the bugs in the night, and there were a lot.”
The bed bugs in McGhee’s apartment came from the old bed frame that came with the apartment she rented. While many think this is harmless, it’s actually something the EPA warns against in the effort to prevent bed bugs.
“I still have a bed bug cover on my mattress, and I doubt I will ever remove it,” McGhee said.
She contended with fumigations, buying new furniture and even moving — none of which completely got rid of the bed bugs.
Student housing has protocol in place, but many landlords like McGhee’s will attempt to avoid the cost of fumigation, leaving students to suffer the pest problem longer than necessary.
Before the email blast, many students had never given thought to the possibility of infestation.
“I never thought about bugs being a problem in the dorms,” said UC Resident and Senior Michelle Papandrea. “I’ve lived on campus for four years now and never had an issue. The buildings are so new that you don’t think it would be a problem.”
It’s a common misconception that recently constructed buildings are a bed bug-free zone, but this is not the case. The truth is that bed bugs can be transported into new, clean facilities from anywhere.
Warning signs include unexplained rashes or bites and blood spots on sheets. Any students with these warning signs may have to be relocated from their rooms for up to a week while Residence Life completes fumigation.