Starting in mid-September, Brianna Gonzalez said she had a weird, itchy red rash that would come and go that she could not explain, as she had not had any allergies before or switched skin care products.
“I went to see a few doctors, … and they told me that when it comes to allergies and bites and hives, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint the reasons,” advertising junior Gonzalez said. “I just dealt with it. But I kept noticing that after my finance class in the (University Teaching Center), that I kept finding these little black bugs on me, and it happened three times before I started to be skeptical about it.”
Those bugs were bedbugs, confirmed by the University’s pest control team Friday. Bedbugs are small brown pests the size of appleseeds that do not spread disease but leave itchy, red bites on their hosts after sucking blood, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That same day, the team contracted a private pest control company to treat the lecture hall affected, UTC 2.102A, Landscape Services manager Jim Carse said.
He said it was not an infestation, as it only affected one room, and the room was treated Monday. Monday and Tuesday classes in the room were canceled or moved to another location, Carse said.
“We’re confident that the problem is resolved,” Carse said. “The contractor got the work done ahead of schedule, so the room opened up (Wednesday) morning at 8:00 a.m. ready to go.”
Pest control supervisor Mart Stubblefield said the team could not be sure when or how the bedbugs got into the chairs in the room, but because the bugs travel on humans and animals, that is the most likely reason for their presence.
“These insects are strictly hitchhikers,” Stubblefield said. “They transfer by people from one place to another. … If one of the students (affected by the bugs) was in a residence hall, then (University) Housing and Dining could address that.”
Cynthia Lew, assistant director for marketing and communications in University Housing and Dining, said in an email as soon as they receive a report of bedbugs in a residence hall, they treat it.
Gonzalez said when she accidentally brought one of the bugs to her off-campus apartment last Wednesday, she killed it and found it was filled with blood. She said her roommate, who has another class in the same room, told her another student screamed when she found bugs crawling on her during class.
“That’s when I put the pieces together, and I took a picture of the bug … I figured it was a bedbug,” Gonzalez said. “I emailed my professor and told her the story, and she reported for me to the Longhorn Wellness Center. I got an email the next morning, and she said … that my suspicions had been confirmed. Then she sent out an email to all the students that class would be canceled Monday.”
Gonzalez said improved UTC maintenance might help prevent issues like this in the future.
“I know those chairs are kind of old and cushiony, so maybe changing those out often (would help),” Gonzalez said. “I know the UTC is a very old building. It’s pretty gross to think about, if I’m being honest.”