Bed bugs infest multiple areas of New York’s John Jay College (CUNY)

by nobugsonme on September 24, 2009 · 13 comments

in bed bugs

Colleges are bracing themselves for H1N1 this fall, but students and staff should remember that bed bugs are always a problem in colleges. Yes, even in commuter colleges with no student housing!

CBS2 in New York reports that students at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice found out in an email Wednesday night that the first floor of the college’s North Hall has been infested with bed bugs:

The word came in a mass e-mail identifying several offices, including admissions, financial aid, health, student government, the registrar and a conference room as among those that have — not an infestation — but rather in the words of the email, a bed bug condition.

Unfortunately, having a “bed bug condition” in at least five offices and a conference room does indeed amount to a bed bug infestation.

Bed bug treatment is going to be carried out on Saturday to avoid disrupting classes.

Some students in the CBS report claimed to have been bitten already; of course, in New York, bed bugs are now so commonplace that this might also happen on a bus, in a subway seat, in a cafe or someone’s home.

We can only hope students, staff and faculty at John Jay are also getting a briefing on how to detect, identify — and respond to — bed bug infestations at home.

Watch the video and see the story: John Jay College Overrun By Bed Bugs – wcbstv.com.

Update (9/24):

As Buggedinsomerville notes in the comments below, The New York Times City Room blog now has a story on this.

City Room reports that North Hall has been closed until Tuesday for treatment, and there’s a Q&A with the college president and a pest firm in the College Theater at 2 today.

In it, Jim Grossman, a John Jay spokesman, explains the whole “bed bug condition” thing:

John Jay is calling it a bedbug “condition.” Mr. Grossman said, “Infestation is when you can see them swarming.”

[Emphasis mine.]

Oh dear!

This is terribly inaccurate and just shows an ignorance of how bed bugs act normally — they hide and they do so very well.

If you can see bed bugs swarming, you have an extremely serious bed bug infestation.

This level of infestation is very rare, though we’ve heard of a few cases.

It’s possible to have a considerable bed bug infestation and see few, if any, bed bugs.

City Room says that

Bedbugs were found on the first three floors of the four-story building, though they were concentrated mainly on the first.

[Emphasis mine.]

Three quarters of the building?  That, my friends, sounds like a sizeable bed bug infestation.

Update #2 (9/24):

Don’t look now, John Jay PR folks, but NBC called this a “bed bug infestation” no less than five times in this article alone.

The New York Times did not dip into that pesky conundrum.

And Running Scared (Village Voice) blogger Chez Pazienza had a bit of fun:

We don’t need to tell you that the past few years has seen near-epidemic bedbug “conditions” in New York City…

Yes, indeed.

By any other name, a bed bug problem smells just as nasty.*

In deference to our friend Winston, I will surrender the “i” word for now.

Here’s the thing, though: you have bed bugs (plural) in multiple offices and 3/4 floors of a building?

You have a bed bug problem.  A serious one.

One which appears to have been going on since at least mid-August, according to the New York Times.

(I’m not discounting the importance of getting rid of even one single male bed bug, honestly, but am trying

And remember:  there’s no shame in having a bed bug problem.  What matters is how swiftly, carefully, and fully you respond to it.

———————–

*Yes: bed bug infestations can smell, but no: most people don’t report noticing this most of the time.  Just taking a bit of poetic license.

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1 BuggedInSomerville September 24, 2009 at 12:25 pm

This story is up on the New York Times site as well, with some choice quotes from a PR mouthpiece: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/24/john-jay-college-closes-building-due-to-bed-bugs/#comment-527395

Apparently, this expert (/sarcasm) thinks you need “swarms” of bedbugs in order to call it an infestation. He obviously knows very little about how bedbugs work. More importantly, when mouthpieces like this downplay bedbugs to the public, the issue slides further away from getting the serious attention it needs, and that frustrates me.

2 nobugsonme September 24, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Thanks, BuggedInSomerville!

Update added above:

As Buggedinsomerville notes in the comments (above), The New York Times City Room blog now has a story on this.

City Room reports that North Hall has been closed until Tuesday for treatment, and there’s a Q&A with the college president and a pest firm in the College Theater at 2 today.

In it, Jim Grossman, a John Jay spokesman, explains the whole “bed bug condition” thing:

John Jay is calling it a bedbug “condition.” Mr. Grossman said, “Infestation is when you can see them swarming.”

[Emphasis mine.]

Oh dear!

This is terribly inaccurate and just shows an ignorance of how bed bugs act normally — they hide and they do so very well.

If you can see bed bugs swarming, you have an extremely serious bed bug infestation.

This level of infestation is very rare, though we’ve heard of a few cases.

It’s possible to have a considerable bed bug infestation and see few, if any, bed bugs.

City Room says that

Bedbugs were found on the first three floors of the four-story building, though they were concentrated mainly on the first.

[Emphasis mine.]

Three quarters of the building? That, my friends, sounds like a sizeable bed bug infestation.

3 Winston O. Buggy September 24, 2009 at 4:33 pm

In my world the use of the word infested might be a bit on the hyperbole side in this case. I have seen these secretive and nocturnal insects out and about during the day in situations which I would call “infested”. So infested or not a bite is a bite and they seem to be addressing the issue. Good for them! And no I am not involved.

4 parakeets September 24, 2009 at 5:30 pm

More bedbug-speak:

The NY Times clip quotes: “The president of the college, Jeremy Travis, said no bites had been reported, only skin rashes…”

1) Aren’t the skin rashes caused by bites? What hairs is this college president trying to split by this kind of talk?

2) “No bites have been reported?” ???? The CBS newsvideo shows a John Jay student pointing out his bite to the camera. Maybe Jeremy Travis should watch the video.

News reports will soon be saying “the alleged bites,” “the alleged bedbug infestation…”

5 spideyjg September 25, 2009 at 12:14 am

Maybe they got a different dictionary than Websters? Must be sumthing they learn in those dang state of higher edumacation schools I never went to. 😉

Maybe if you stretch the meaning real thin #4 of condition could fit but nowhere near as well as #2 of infest.

Then again I’m just a dumm southern boy.

Infest…

Main Entry: in·fest
Pronunciation: \in-?fest\
Function: transitive verb
Etymology: French infester, from Latin infestare, from infestus hostile
Date: 1602

1 : to spread or swarm in or over in a troublesome manner
2 : to live in or on as a parasite

Condition…..
Main Entry: 1con·di·tion
Pronunciation: \k?n-?di-sh?n\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English condicion, from Anglo-French, from Latin condicion-, condicio terms of agreement, condition, from condicere to agree, from com- + dicere to say, determine — more at diction
Date: 14th century

1 a : a premise upon which the fulfillment of an agreement depends : stipulation b obsolete : covenant c : a provision making the effect of a legal instrument contingent upon an uncertain event; also : the event itself
2 : something essential to the appearance or occurrence of something else : prerequisite: as a : an environmental requirement b : the subordinate clause of a conditional sentence
3 a : a restricting or modifying factor : qualification b : an unsatisfactory academic grade that may be raised by doing additional work
4 a : a state of being b : social status : rank c : a usually defective state of health d : a state of physical fitness or readiness for use e plural : attendant circumstances
5 a obsolete : temper of mind b obsolete : trait c plural archaic : manners, ways

6 nobugsonme September 25, 2009 at 1:12 am

spideyjg,

We know you’re not dumb!

The infest #2 you provide is tricky: bed bugs live off our blood. But they don’t live “on or in” us as the definition notes.

I am willing to admit there is some disagreement in dictionary definitions.

But here’s a few more interesting ones:

Here’s the OED (online; 2nd Ed. 1989):

infest v2 (did not include all defintions):

2. To trouble (a country or place) with hostile attacks; to visit persistently or in large numbers for purposes of destruction or plunder; to haunt with evil intent, so as to render unsafe or unpleasant; to swarm in or about, so as to be troublesome. Said of persons (e.g. robbers, pirates), animals (e.g. wolves, vermin, insects), diseases or other evils.

1602 WARNER Alb. Eng. Epit. (1612) 368 England..dilacerate and infested aswell by the Saxons themselues as by the Danes. 1613 PURCHAS Pilgrimage (1614) 610 The Turkish Pyrats, which..infested al those Seas. 1615 G. SANDYS Trav. 38 The plague for the most part miserably infesteth this City. 1651 C. CARTWRIGHT Cert. Relig. To Rdr., Popery is the grand evill that doth infest the Church. 1697 DRYDEN Virg. Georg. IV. 358 Wasps infest the Camp with loud Alarms. 1718 BP. NICOLSON in Ellis Orig. Lett. Ser. II. IV. 318 A country said to be much infested with a set of barbarous and pilfering Tories. 1765 A. DICKSON Treat. Agric. I. xiii. (ed. 2) 106 Some [weeds]..infest the land that is in tillage, and others the land that is in grass. 1796 SCOTT Chase note, An aerial hunter, who infested the forest of Fountainebleau. 1863 LYELL Antiq. Man 207 Over lands covered with glaciers, or over seas infested with icebergs.
Hence infested ppl. a., infesting vbl. n. and ppl. a.

1676 tr. Guillatiere’s Voy. Athens 39 This way of infesting of Ships is ordinary among them. 1881 Daily News 14 Sept. 3/1 A clearance of infesting borders, hedges, and poor timber is wanted. 1893 Jrnl. R. Agric. Soc. Dec. 821 Infested barley heads present a very characteristic appearance.

———————————–

infestation

The action of infesting, assailing, harassing, or persistently molesting; now used esp. of insects which attack plants, grain, etc. in large swarms. Also, with an and pl. An assault or attack of this kind. Also, the state or condition of being infested.

1536 BELLENDEN Cron. Scot. (1821) II. 187 The Scottis sal perpetuallie rejose al boundis of Northumbirland, but ony infestatioun of Inglismen, in times cuming. 1563-87 FOXE A. & M. (1684) I. 567/1 Wheresoever that Water is sprinkled, all vexation or infestation of the unclean Spirit should avoid. 1637 R. HUMFREY tr. St. Ambrose I. 37 In the time of infestation of the Arrian heresie. 1695 KENNETT Par. Antiq. iii. 9 The guard of our Sea-coasts from the infestation of Northern Pirats. 1751 G. LAVINGTON Enthus. Method. & Papists II. iii. (1754) 152 The Diabolical Infestations, and surprizing Contagions..were all among the Nuns. 1851 SIR F. PALGRAVE Norm. & Eng. I. 136 The external enemies possessed a power of infestation which could not be quelled. 1881 E. A. ORMEROD Injurious Insects, Prev. & Rem. (1890) 248 The infestation did much harm in young Fir woods. 1895 Times 8 Oct. 2/6 The world-wide referee on entomological infestations.

[Emphasis mine.]

I like this definition of “infest”:

to haunt with evil intent, so as to render unsafe or unpleasant;

Yeah, that sounds about right to me.

The thing is, bed bugs can be at unpleasant and troubling levels without “swarming” as “insects which infest plants, grain, etc.” do.

Twenty grasshoppers, no big deal. A swarm of locusts: infestation.
Twenty bed bugs, on the other hand: the bed bug equivalent of a problem. You have a problem for a long, long time before any swarming is going to happen…

Here’s another question: a busyness of ferrets, a murder of crows.

What do you call a bunch of bed bugs?
Creative answers welcomed! (Hint: I am not looking for “colony.”)

7 nobugsonme September 25, 2009 at 1:22 am

Oh, and still more updates have been added to the post.

8 spideyjg September 25, 2009 at 2:01 am

A suck of BBs. 😉

A festin of BBs 😉

9 Bugw/NoName September 26, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Hello,

I just wanted to say that I work on one of the floors of the North Hall Building of John Jay College. That I know the bug issue was kept quiet for quite sometime. The investigation of the bugs was initiated on Friday, the 18th. The college community was not informed of this till Wednesday, the 23rd, which is when I was bit. My bites were actually dismissed by administration because of the craziness going on, they thought everyone would think they have been bitten. They later informed us that that night the rest of the building would be investigated. I also forgot to mention that staff members from the first floor, where the bugs were found, were relocated up stairs, without being checked for bugs or taking any precautions.
On Thursday when I woke up I found new bites on my body, I was extremely upset! I went to work because they said those who did not want to go in had to use a sick day. When I arrived at work they had relocated staff to other building. This concerned me since they were doing so with out being cautious and checking staff for bites or at least be cautious of not bringing it into another building. I was sent home after showing the bites I had received and have not returned since.

Other in my family are now showing symptoms of having bites, redness, scratching, etc. I have been told by those who I work with that my area was not affected, the dogs they sent did not show bedbugs where my desk is. This upsets me. I feel as if they are outing me because I spoke up when I needed help. They want to now say that it must of just been me, in high traffic office of over six staff members, I find it very hard to believe.
I now have to deal with the financial burden of ridding these bugs from my family’s apartment and my personal belongings. So… “condition” my ass!

Staff members have been working side by side with these bugs for months! Just because they found them Last Friday does not mean they haven’t been around before that. God knows how many haven’t noticed them at home yet.
There are those in the John Jay community who believe what the administration is telling them because maybe it makes them feel better and choose to ignore that a public institution will say anything when they are receiving bad press.
Im also asking for help, I live in a 40 apt building in Brooklyn. My apt is a two bedroom. Very cluttered and have no idea where to start. Some one I know suggested painting? I have already started the drying of the clothes I had laying around at the laundrymat. I am a bit anxious and overwhelmed. I know this will take time and I might need to take off of work (2jobs) and school in order to get this done properly. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading!!!

10 nobugsonme September 26, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Hi Bugw,

So sorry you are going through this.

One of the articles said that staff of John Jay were complaining of rashes as early as mid-August. When I have a bit more time I will link to it here.

Even though family members may be scratching, you need to verify that you have bed bugs at home. I would recommend having a good experienced professional inspect.

Remember that it’s quite common for people to scratch when we talk about bed bugs — the idea makes people react; it’s also possible for other causes to make people itchy. I am not saying you did not bring bed bugs home with you from work, but it is not necessarily so and needs to be verified.

It’s important you verify the presence of bed bugs before you start laundering things, tossing things out, or getting treatment — you might not have them at home, and if you do, people who are going to treat need to SEE the evidence before you clean it away!

I would also talk to higher-ups at work to see what kind of support they will give you with inspections or treatment (and maybe also talk to your union, if any).

I would strongly encourage you to repost your questions on our Forums, where you will likely get even more responses, and also to read our extensive FAQs.

11 BBSurvivor October 18, 2009 at 11:54 pm

I have an interesting bit of information that may or may not be a connection. A lot of John Jay students live in the New Yorker Hotel on 34th and 8th, which was in the news back in 2007 for bedbug infestations on the student floors. Maybe those students brought the bugs to school…

12 nobugsonme October 19, 2009 at 1:22 am

Hi BBSurvivor,

That’s a possibility.

Of course, anyone in NYC can have bed bugs at home (quite likely without knowing about them) and bring them in. There could also be issues with infested public transportation routes, supply shipments, maintenance crews, etc. It’s impossible to say how this started.

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