The Collegian
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The next college pandemic?

I was supposed to be writing about Health Care this week. After my rebuttal in the last issue of The Collegian, I was hoping to lay the blueprint for a conservative, free-market solution that avoided a public option. Alas, my well-laid plans were dramatically torn asunder when I woke up Saturday night as a victim of what is perhaps the next great pandemic. A victim of the dreaded H1N1 virus? Nope, the legendary bed bug.

I would bet dollars to doughnuts that almost everyone has heard the age-old saying, "Goodnight, sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite."

In case you are unaware (as I once was), bed bugs are tiny, tick-sized insects that prefer living in bed linens, mattresses, bed boards, or in the carpet and walls near beds. They are usually most active just before dawn, when they venture out and feed on their prey (us). We offer the bed bugs an early morning D-Hall (trayless of course).

Similar to mosquitoes, they poke a small, needle-like appendage into the human body and suck out small quantities of blood. The result is also analogous to a mosquito bite in that a small, red, extremely itchy bite mark will appear. Multiply this effect by a few hundred times and you've got yourself one damn miserable day of fruitless scratching.

Unfortunately, bed bugs are really, really hard to eradicate. Like the Viet Cong, they get tough in the late rounds by ferociously attacking and then fading into the mist to ambush you once again. Not only are they notoriously stubborn, but bed bugs are becoming prevalent in the United States for the first time in several decades. Cases of bed bugs are popping up in colleges and hotels all across the country.

Richmond appears to be no exception. Not only did our apartment become infested with them, but another apartment on our block did, too. Bed bugs can live without feeding for up to 18 months and thus can easily bridge the gap between semesters. Therefore, our previous apartment dwellers likely had the problem first, and now, we are suffering as well.

Bed bug cases very often go undiagnosed given that people may only be bitten a few times and will assume the bites are from something else. I'm sure if I had gone to the Student Health Center with my bites, I would have promptly been diagnosed with mono or an STD and given a leaflet explaining my ailment.

Also, many people do not react to the bites at all and thus could be getting bitten without realizing it. Most disconcerting for a college campus is that they can be spread very easily from residence to residence.

So why am I writing to tell you all this? The reason is not to garner sympathy for my condition (I will be able to survive a few itchy bites and live to fight another day) or to spread baseless canards. My problem lies with the university's response to our apartment contracting bed bugs.

I first alerted the school to the problem Sunday, but we waited until Monday for Facilities to make an appearance. Then it took until Tuesday for exterminators to treat our apartment. That treatment strangely entailed a bit of spraying, replacing the carpet track in the bedroom doorways and re-caulking our sink.

On Wednesday, I slept in my bed once more and was bitten again, realizing that the bugs had not been eliminated. When all was said and done, I slept on my couch for nearly a week before housing told us we would have to temporarily move residence while our place was treated several more times. At least we have one of the best-maintained sinks on campus.

Richmond certainly prides itself in its ability to respond to situations in a manner it deems appropriate. For example, the school is e-mailing us several times a week with flu updates and preparations for a potential H1N1 outbreak. We even have an entire Bias Response Team (BRT) dedicated to addressing instances of bias on our campus.

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But when it comes to a situation that affects our places of residence, the school seems absolutely lost. Perhaps it is time to unveil the BBRRT (Bed Bug Rapid Response Team) to make sure kids are no longer ruthlessly pillaged by these blood-sucking monsters.

In all seriousness, the school seems unwilling to admit that bed bugs might be a growing issue on our campus. We pay a hefty sum to attend this school, and our digs are fairly shabby.

Juniors and seniors, if you want to engage in an exercise of revulsion, take a look at the carpet in your apartments. The fact of the matter is that the quality of housing at Richmond is several levels below what it should be for an exclusive private school.

To be fair, bed bug cases have been reported in luxury hotels as well, but in general, dingy and unkempt buildings are most often associated with the invasive creatures. If this school truly cares about its most important members (the students), then it must put together a better method of dealing with bed bugs and any other such housing-related problems.

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