"Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite" has taken on literal meaning for several Bowdoin students.
Katie Kinkel '13 returned to campus this year to some unexpected roommates in her Stowe Hall room.
Early in the year, Kinkel began to notice red bumps similar to mosquito bites concentrated primarily around her feet, legs and hands. Kinkel's father, a doctor, thought these bites may be a result of bedbugs; however, when she went to the Health Center for treatment, they diagnosed it as an allergic reaction and sent Kinkel on her way with an anti-histamine.
The bites persisted and Kinkel continued to suspect bedbugs until she got unexpected confirmation while studying in bed late one night.
"I had been in the bed for maybe an hour and a half doing work when I actually saw a few bugs crawling around the sheets," Kinkel said. Her own research into the matter helped confirm her suspicions.
Fortunately for the community, the College has escaped the bedbugs' wrath relatively unscathed. According to Associate Director of Housing Operations Lisa Rendall, only two such infestations have been reported recently—one occurring over the summer and the other in the fall.
Though these creatures are far from being a new problem, they have been on the rise recently; closing down businesses from stores to hotels.
Bedbugs have been garnering national media attention in past months and the number of reported cases across the country is significantly higher than in past years.
The Portland Press Herald reported Monday that a surgical unit at Lewiston's Central Maine Medical Center was preparing to be re-opened after a week-long extermination process.
In May, the Herald reported that the Bangor Public Health Director Patty Hamilton noted an increased number of reported bedbug incidents, particularly, but not exclusively in, low-income housing.
Bedbugs made the Herald headlines again in July when it was noted that Maine exterminators were employing dogs to sniff the bugs out and using heat to eradicate them, since bedbugs cannot survive in temperatures above 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bedbugs have also infiltrated Maine headlines in the debate over whether schools should be closed when bedbugs are discovered prominently in the area.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also taken notice of the nationwide bedbug epidemic dedicating an entire page on their website to the issue.
The site provides a multitude of facts about the small reddish-brown bugs, noting that these creatures are drawn to warm temperatures, blood and carbon dioxide rather than dirt. They are visible to the naked eye and feed primarily on human blood.
Bedbugs are not known to transmit disease at all, a fact that Director of Health Services Sandra Hayes describes as "the good news about bedbugs, if there is good news."
"They're a nuisance and it certainly has an effect but they don't transmit any other infections to other people and they don't carry anything," Hayes said.
She echoed the fact that bedbugs have not been a serious issue on campus, and credits the Office of Residential Life with efficient prevention.
"We just have not seen a huge outbreak on our campus and I think that's in part because students report to ResLife and I think ResLife gets on it so quickly that it doesn't have time [to spread]," she added.
"I've been here in some capacity at Bowdoin for the past 10 years at the Health Center as a nurse practitioner then, now as director, and I would say [there have been] five [cases of bedbugs] or so over those 10 years," Hayes said.
"The bugs looked like images of bedbugs that I had seen when I looked them up," said Kinkel. "I had also read that they usually take an hour or two to come out after you've fallen asleep at night or after you've been in bed."
Kinkel responded by contacting Facilities Management, which promptly examined the room. Though Facilities didn't believe Kinkel had many bugs present, they took aggressive actions to prevent the spread or recurrence of the issue.
"I had to move everything out of my room and they came and sprayed everything with pesticides and then they reassembled the beds," Kinkel said. "I haven't had any since, so I'm assuming it's been solved."
"The best thing students can do is to notify Facilities Management right away if they suspect a problem," Rendall wrote in an e-mail to the Orient.
"Facilities [Management] prefers students call workorders at extension 3333 with their name, room number and a description of the problem, but they can also submit a workorder online," she wrote.
As far as the College's plan for handling bedbugs goes, prompt extermination is a key feature of the strict plan for prevention.
"The College has a general protocol that we use for all types of infestations such as lice, fleas and bedbugs," Rendall wrote. "As soon as we are notified by students of a possible infestation, we respond right away by having Facilities [Management] staff investigate the situation further. We also contract with an outside company that specializes in pest control to handle incidences of fleas and bedbugs."
Kinkel, for one, said she was pleased with the College's response and that she understood the Health Center mix-up.
"It wasn't really their fault. I think that this is sort of a problem that's just beginning," Kinkel said.
After sending an e-mail to Facilities Management, Kinkel said they responded immediately to come check out the room and exterminate the bugs, and have another visit to check up on the situation scheduled for next month.
"[Facilities Management] was really good about it," Kinkel said.
Students who suspect their rooms are infested should notify Facilities Management and should not remove any belongings from their room before it is treated.