Students are dealing with various insects on campus, including bed bugs, flies, cockroaches, and itch mites that cause scabies.
Scabies is an extremely itchy skin condition caused by burrowing parasites.
The condition is contagious, spreading from prolonged skin-to-skin contact. When someone gets scabies for the first time, they typically become contagious for two to six weeks before showing symptoms, according to CDC.gov.
Simón Gómez, music theater freshman, said he developed an itchy rash at the end of the summer, but thought it was from eczema until his boyfriend called him two weeks ago to tell him he had scabies. The Campus Health Clinic provided treatment that immediately helped, but a few other students already had gotten scabies as well, Gómez said.
Dr. Daniel McNeill, clinical professor and director of the physician assistant program, said the few cases of scabies on campus do not classify as an outbreak.
“Scabies is very frequently encountered in our society and requires more than just incidental contact,” McNeill said. “If a couple of bumps do not resolve, or you start noticing more occurring, then please do come visit us at the health center. We’re well prepared to handle this type of infection.”
Initial symptoms of scabies are small, extremely itchy red bumps that spread to different parts of the body. The best treatment is an overnight cream that kills all the mites, McNeill said. The rash will not disappear immediately, but treated bodies are no longer contagious.
“The whole thing sucks,” Gómez said. “It’s something you never asked for, and it’s really nobody’s fault. Hopefully in a month, it’ll all be over. Maybe senior year we can all look back and say ‘Hey guys, remember when we all had scabies freshman year? That was fun.’ That’s what I’m hoping, at least.”
Gómez said he treated his room by vacuuming and washing his clothes. He also heat treated his non-washable belongings by putting them in black trash bags and sticking them in his car all day, where the heat killed any remaining mites.
Housing officials said they were never officially notified about scabies, but have dealt with other bug problems.
“I wish I had more information because that would make my life a lot easier, but, right now, it’s just students sharing rumors,” said Stephany George, Walker Hall resident director. “Something like scabies can easily spread and become overwhelming, so we want to make sure the correct information is shared with students, proper treatment is given and precautions are taken.”
Treating bed bugs
Though Oklahoma Pest Solutions sprays campus dorms quarterly with a general bug treatment, some bugs still make their way inside.
“We’ve had one confirmed case of bed bugs this year, and the room has already been taken care of,” George said. “Regularly washing bedding is a good way to patrol bed bugs and kill anything that happened to be there.”
Bed bugs are small, parasitic insects that feed on blood. They may cause itchy red welts, but they do not transmit disease. They mainly live within eight feet of where people sleep and tend to hide during the day, but many have been spotted in highly populated areas. College dorms are the fourth most popular place to find an infestation, according to a 2015 study conducted by the National Pest Management Association.
“I’ve spoken to other university housing officials who said bed bugs have become so common they’re no longer considered a big issue,” said Kevin Culbertson, coordinator of housing operations. “They’re becoming more prevalent in the midwest, and they’re common on college campuses. People are concerned because they haven’t had to worry about it before.”
After the confirmed case, several students reported bed bugs and asked for inspections that found no evidence of the parasite.
“I think it’s a placebo type of thing because it becomes mass hysteria once one person hears about it,” Culbertson said. “If you report it, we will check it. We have official instruction documents and protocol in place, but don’t think you have it just because someone else does.”
Students also reported finding excessive flies and cockroaches in their living areas.
“I have an infestation of fruit flies, and I had a way larger one this summer,” said Daniel Etti-Williams, acting junior. “I haven’t contacted anyone about it because they have a short lifespan and will probably die soon. I do have a fruit fly attractant that traps them, and I also use the trick of pouring a cup of apple cider vinegar covered with plastic wrap that I poked holes in.”
Bugs are a part of life, and students should close their doors to the outside and contact officials with problems, but they shouldn’t blame housing, Etti-Williams said.
Darilynn Hammond, head resident for Banning and Draper halls, said bugs are not uncommon in Banning and Draper because they are old buildings.
“I haven’t heard of any specific bug problems, but students can buy bug spray and contact us if they see a persistent issue,” Hammond said. “We want to keep a good relationship between housing, maintenance and students to mitigate these problems efficiently.”
Housing officials advise students to make sure they take out their trash, put away open containers of liquid and keep their rooms generally clean.
“Part of the reason we have health and safety checks is to make sure we are preventing these types of things,” George said.