Panic over bedbugs at University of New Brunswick Saint John campus | CBC News


UNBSJ student Rachel Woodside and her mother, Rebecca Woodside, are demanding transparency and more information from the school about bedbug outbreaks on campus.

Rachel said post-secondary life hasn’t been the same since she discovered a bedbug in her clothing after coming home from school one day last week.

“And then the next morning I woke up with approximately 30 to 40 bedbug bites on different areas of my body, which were itchy and discomforting.”

The university confirmed in a statement Wednesday that bedbugs were found at Hans W. Klohn Commons and Oland Hall — buildings where classes are held — over the past month, though it did not specify exactly when it started getting reports about the bugs.

“Both [buildings] were closed, treated and deemed cleared by Orkin before reopening,” said the statement attributed to Bill Best, the vice-president administration and finance.

Rachel said she had classes in Oland Hall on the evening she found the bug in her clothing last week. Since then, school and home life have turned upside down for the Woodside family.

“We tore the house from top to bottom — inside box springs, vacuumed every inch of a mattress and all bedding was washed, all clothing was washed, dresser drawers were emptied out,” Rebecca said.

Even a week later Rebecca says the family is still taking arduous precautions.

“When the girls come home from school, they don’t go anywhere else,” she said.

“After UNB, they come straight home and they come to our back deck and strip off — every piece of clothing is left on the deck except for their underclothes. We don’t take anything in unless it’s coming in garbage bags and go straight to the washer in hot cycle.”

Better communication could have mitigated panic, students say

Emily Wheaton, editor of The Baron, the student newspaper, said “everything started blowing up online on Monday night.”

While Rachel found the bug in her clothing last week, Wheaton says the first communication students received from the university on the matter was Tuesday of this week.

“That was the peak … UNB sent out an email at 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning saying, ‘Hey, there’s a lot of misinformation. There were bedbugs on campus. They have been treated.'”

Wheaton compared the panic to the early days of COVID-19, with students afraid they may bring something home with them.

“I think a lot of misinformation and panic started growing because UNB didn’t make a statement about it,” Wheaton said.

“UNB essentially was leaving this up to students’ interpretations, figuring out for themselves the extent to which this could harm people.”

The university sent two emails to students on Tuesday, in the morning and evening, saying classrooms were checked on the previous Friday and Monday with no more evidence of bedbugs found.

Rachel says that students could still use more information.

“They can’t go back in time and change the fact that they didn’t notify people when they should have,” Rachel said.

However, Rachel says students still need to know how to recognize a signs of a bedbug and what precautions to take.

“None of that stuff has ever been brought up,” she said.

Rachel says the experience has made classes, with exams looming, stressful. “Even bringing home the bedbug and having to then clean the entire house took a lot of my studying time” she said.

“To catch up with all these assignments and essays is very stressful and I think, since classes are continuing in person, there is an obligation to go to school.”

Sean Rollo, spokesperson for Orkin Pest Control, would not comment specifically on the university’s circumstances but did want to clear misconceptions about bedbugs — saying they can occur like any pest.

“So perhaps somebody had maybe moved into a campus from home. Maybe they had bedbugs at home. Maybe they were traveling from home and temporarily stayed in a hotel, for example, that might have had that bug that maybe they brought it from there,” said Rollo.

“There’s just so many possibilities about how they could get there,” he said.