Biting Bobcats


Ohio University sees 28 bedbug cases in one year

Taylor Johnston / For The Post

Ohio University saw 10 times more residence hall bed bug cases in the 2017-2018 academic year than it had seen in previous years.

Chad Keller, the environmental health coordinator for OU Environmental Health and Safety, said over the decade before last school year, the campus averaged about 2.2 positive cases of bedbugs per year. Last school year, bed bugs were found in 28 cases.

“Now, last year was an aberration for us and it really got me wondering what was going on,” he said. “We went to almost a 10 fold increase over our previous yearly averages.”

The cases were scattered all over campus, Keller said.

Keller said the spike in increases last year might be due to popular party houses off-campus that students were going to.

“I don't know how you guys do it nowadays, but what we used to do when we used to go party off campus is that you would show up and there would be a coat room where everybody would throw their coats on a bed … and then people would go get their coats at the end of the night and pick their stuff up and leave,” he said. “I got a funny feeling it was something along those lines.”

“Now, last year was an aberration for us and it really got me wondering what was going on” - Chad Keller, environmental health coordinator

If residents suspect they might have a case of bedbugs, EHS asks them to report it to their resident assistant or resident director. EHS inspects the room to confirm whether bed bugs are present.

EHS also asks students to seek medical advice prior to them inspecting the room, he said.

“The reason being is that a lot of the cases that we get reported to us as potential bed bugs are actually something else,” Keller said. “... If they go to the doctor and the doctor says 'Oh, it's actually X,' then we don't need to go through and do an inspection and we don't put ourselves at risk of picking up whatever 'X' may be.”

If the inspection does find bedbugs, EHS preps the room for heat treatment, he said. The process can take two to eight hours.

“We have to literally go through everything in that room to find anything that is heat-labile, that will be destroyed or potentially explode,” he said. “Those items have to be visually inspected and then they are packed, bagged and taken either to a staff office to be stored until after the heat treatment process.”

During that time, the students are offered a temporary “sleeping chamber” with linens provided. The room is for sleeping purposes only, Keller said, and any changes of clothing students bring to the room must go through a dryer on high heat for 30 minutes.

The university also provides the students of affected rooms with Bobcat Cash to take care of the expenses that occur when using the dryers on their items, he said.

“The only thing that residents are looking at that is a nuisance for them is putting the room back together when we are all done because it is a mess and there just isn't a way around that,” he said.

Positive cases found over the past years have been found early in the infestation, Keller said. Cases rarely developed with a significant amount of bedbugs. Most inspections found about one to 10 bedbugs.

“The likelihood of transmission or spread to other locations is directly proportional to the amount of infestation that is in the room,” he said. “We almost never hit cases with high numbers of insects, it is always very low.”

In cases in which individual rooms are treated early, nothing else is done with the residence hall immediately, Keller said. During the next break winter, spring or summer break, EHS brings in canine units to check the residence halls, which is more efficient than Keller or one of his team members checking rooms.

“So if I go into a single on South Green to do a physical inspection, I'm looking at one to two hours to finish that physical inspection ... ,” he said. “Whereas a canine can come into this room and flip the room in 30 seconds to a minute and be back out to the next room.”

A physical inspection is about 70 percent effective, he said. The likelihood of Keller finding a bug in a room that may have a dozen is not very high.

EHS sees the most cases of bedbugs after the Halloween weekend or when students come back from their winter and spring breaks, he said.

Georgia Hilliard, a sophomore studying biochemistry said it makes perfect sense that the bedbug occurrences happen after breaks and Halloween.

“For spring break, a lot of people go places like hotels and a lot of time try to go with a lot of people in a big group, which is cheap” she said. “For winter break, it doesn’t make sense because a lot of people either stay here or go home.”

Shelby McQuigg, an undecided freshman, said she doesn’t take any precautions when it comes to bedbugs because she doesn’t know much about them.

“I usually don’t sleep anywhere besides my dorm and I try to make it back and not stay anywhere else,” she said. “If the house is gross, I find a way back.”

So far this academic year there has been a total of two positive cases of bedbugs in the residence halls, one in Sowle Hall and the other in Adams Hall.

“If we continue at the current rate, we will have 5 this year, not 28,” Keller said.

Development by: Taylor Johnston / For The Post

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