Don't let the bedbugs bite
The past week has brought some itchy headlines as places like Catawba College have confirmed an exterminator's worst fear: Bedbugs.
While no confirmed infestations have hit Appalachian State University or Lees-McRae College yet, officials are still on alert for bedbugs.
"Luckily they're not dangerous; they're just irritating," ASU Housing's Tom Kane said.
Bloodsucking parasites (literally), bedbugs cause angry red welts, itching and, according to some websites, psychological paranoia.
Kane and the rest of the university are following protocol to make sure any and all potential infestations are contained.
While no cases have been confirmed, the university did have a report of a possible infestation two weeks ago and put that protocol to the test, replacing the student's mattress. No bugs were found, and the student did not call to complain again.
"We had a few cases like that last year, but again, we were never called back," Kane said.
According to Tim Hiatt of Rid-a-Bug Pest Control Services, if bedbugs had been the culprit, ASU would have gotten more phone calls.
"Oh, lord, it's a nightmare," he said. "It entails a big process of tearing the whole place apart ... they get inside the clock radios, the telephones, every picture that comes off a wall ... we actually have to take the box springs open."
His clients are advised to either throw their mattresses away or get a plastic cover ("But I'd say throw it away," he said). Treating a hotel room, he said, costs about $500, and rooms on either side of the affected area are usually treated. "It can get expensive," Hiatt said.
According to Hiatt, it's easy to tell if your bedroom has been infected or if the itching you feel is paranoia from watching the nightly news.
"You can see them," he said. "The adults are just a little smaller than a ladybug ... you see them crawling ... you take the sheets of your mattress and you look at that seam that goes all the way around ... once you start unfolding that seam, you see them."
Hiatt has performed three treatments this year, mostly at hotels. "People that are traveling, they spread it," he said.
People that are traveling: Like students. Kane said that, while it's not number one on his radar ("There are other things that students get into on a daily basis that worry me more than bedbugs," he said), they're ready for an infestation.
"If we got a call, we would just go and address it just like we would if a toilet was overflowing," he said.
Most infestations occur at hotels and shelters, following a transient population. Thanks to the World Wide Web, there's an easy way to plan bedbug free vacations.
Before you make a hotel reservation, check to see if your destination has been listed on sites like http://www.bedbugregistry.com and http://www.bedbugdatabase.com.