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Bedbug infestation invades classrooms at USF

Several classrooms at the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida are closed off to students while they are treated for a bedbug infestation. The building was also besieged by bedbugs in 2013, with three classrooms treated.
Several classrooms at the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida are closed off to students while they are treated for a bedbug infestation. The building was also besieged by bedbugs in 2013, with three classrooms treated.
Published May 28, 2016

TAMPA — The University of South Florida is dealing with an infestation of bedbugs.

But instead of invading USF's beds or dorms, the bugs have infested its classrooms.

Six classrooms and a reception area in the Muma College of Business building are infested with Cimex lectularius — the common bedbug — USF officials said.

University employees discovered the bedbugs last week after a student complained about bugs in Room 118. They had infested chairs and furniture, and they can travel along the floors and walls.

Pest-control company Terminix treated the building, including spots where the bugs weren't found. The area is being monitored for followup treatments.

"While repulsive, bedbugs are not considered a medical or public health hazard," College of Business dean Moez Limayem wrote in an email to faculty and staff on May 19.

In what Limayem called an "abundance of caution," all classes in the newest portion of the Business Administration Building, where the bugs were found, have been relocated for the rest of the Summer A semester, which ends June 24.

This isn't the first time the building has been besieged by bugs. In 2013, three classrooms were treated for bedbugs over a monthlong period. Two of those rooms saw the bugs return in this latest infestation.

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Travis Keels, said the agency doesn't keep track of bedbug infestations in universities or schools, only in places that offer food and lodging. If a state inspector finds bedbugs in a hotel room, for example, a 14-day warning is issued and the specific room cannot be rented until it clears another inspection.

Bedbugs are known to be excellent "hitchhikers," said National Pest Management Association spokeswoman Cindy Mannes. When they bite, the bugs numb the surrounding skin and can latch on without being noticed, she said. They also stick to fabric and are known to be an elusive and hard-to-control pest.

"People can bring them in with them and not even know it, and then the (bugs) can survive for 30 days without a blood meal," Mannes said.

Bedbugs shouldn't be viewed as a sign that an area is unclean, said Brittany Campbell, an entomologist at the University of Florida. The bugs feed off human blood, but so far haven't been found to carry any diseases. Still, they can cause allergic reactions like blisters or, if an infestation gets out of hand, can lead to anemia from blood loss, Campbell said.

"We call them bedbugs because they're attracted to heat and carbon dioxide," she said, "so when you're asleep and lying there breathing for a few hours, it's very attractive to bedbugs."

This year, the Tampa and St. Petersburg area ranked 31st on Orkin's list of "Top 50 Bedbug Cities," which ranks locations based on the number of bedbug treatments the pest-control company administered in 2015. Mannes said Chicago topped the list for the fourth year in a row, likely because of the amount of international travel in the city.

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While no government agency keeps track of bedbug infestations, the National Pest Management Association's annual surveys have found the populations grow every year as the bugs adapt.

"Bedbugs are a great pest, from a biological standpoint, because they're really difficult to get rid of," Campbell said. "They build up resistances and their bodies have a way of fighting off insecticides."

The most effective treatment is to bring in external heaters and heat the affected areas to 120 degrees, she said. But reinfestation is still a risk: "Then, of course, you have to worry about bringing them back in."