By: Samuel Olowolayemo
Upon resumption from the eight-month ASUU strike last year, Gerald resumed to meet half of his noodles devoured by rats which had migrated from the now-barren kitchenettes and corridors that fed them while school was in session.
Also, somewhere in C block, Green Hall, a friend’s luggage had been “drilled” with several damages to the clothes within it. Up till now, these rats would run like gangsters at nighttime on the way to toilets, rooms and across the ceiling for those on the topmost floor.
For Denrele and many, it’s not rats but cockroaches that infest their wardrobes, creeping into books, clothes, boxes and even pots of food. The writer has been a victim too and it really could be annoying to dispose of food that has been contaminated by these miniatures. The chief of these co-habitants is bedbug, which together with the long-standing female anopheles are blood-sucking obligates.
This piece seeks to identify co-existence and more importantly, challenges UI students face with these organisms, identifying health danger they pose and exploring ways to deal with them.
The prevalence of rat infestation varies from halls, blocks to floors. But generally, there have been claims of drastic reduction in halls compared to the previous semester, save for a far-town hall.
Aside the fact that rat infestation could be psychologically challenging, of utmost concern is the health and economic implication they wreck in areas where they are found. Through bites and contamination of food with their urine and faeces, diseases such as cryptosporidiosis, toxoplasmosis, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, etc can be contracted by humans.
These are zoonotic diseases that could cause mild to severe symptoms in vulnerable populations like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and complications causing kidney and liver damage, meningitis, and respiratory distress.
Rats and other rodents like mice, moles are usually found where hygiene and sanitation practice is low; poorly stored food, open trash containers, and spilled crumbs attract them. Also, cluttered spaces and openings in buildings serve as suitable habitats for their survival.
Like several pests, rats contribute to economic wastage not only by consuming foodstuffs, but also by gnawing on electric cables and other building materials.
The fight against infestation in our halls, largely and collectively requires residents’ efforts in making their rooms, bathrooms, the environment clean and this include ensuring proper food storage and waste disposal.
On cockroaches, they are fast-breeding insects and their invasion of rooms can be tough to deal with considering their nature of creeping into crevices, books, clothes, and luggage to hide.
In comparison to previous semester, there have been claims of massive reduction in their population and this cannot be unconnected with the fumigation of halls by the school management during the session break.
Cockroaches are scavengers and are known to feed on almost everything including crumbs, paper, food, debris, grease, and even other dead insects. They are found in garbage dumps, sewer lines and unclean toilets where they load their guts with various microbes.
They get into pots with food and their allergens pose mild to severe symptoms to humans of which are gastrointestinal problem, skin irritation and rashes, worsening asthma, coughing, wheezing and difficulty in breathing. To prevent cockroach infestations, it’s essential to maintain a clean living environment, eliminate food and water sources, and seal off potential entry points.
Proper sanitation practices, such as keeping food sealed and disposing of waste promptly, can help deter cockroaches from invading your space.
The most widely talked about and psychologically disturbing of the organisms are bedbugs. Last semester witnessed a widespread of infestations in halls of residence, lecture halls, libraries and reading rooms. These blood-sucking obligates are so classified because they require blood to complete their life cycle and reproduce. While adult bedbugs can survive for several months without a blood meal, they do need to feed periodically to reproduce. The frequency of feeding depends on factors like temperature, humidity, and the availability of hosts.
Under optimal conditions, bedbugs may feed every 5 to 10 days. However, they are known to survive for extended periods without feeding, especially in environments where hosts (such as humans or animals) are not readily available. Although bedbugs can endure hunger for a time, they are not like some other insects that can survive indefinitely without a food source.
Eventually, if denied access to blood, bedbugs will become weakened, and their ability to reproduce will be compromised. Their hideous nature and growing resistance makes them difficult to eliminate and may be necessary to beckon on a professional pest control agency, as they have stronger and more effective pesticides.
But in our halls of residence, there are still claims of persistence of bedbugs in some rooms despite the two-phased fumigation done by the school management during the semester break. This calls for review of effectiveness and assessment of the fumigation whose purpose might be defeated if only a fraction are eliminated.
Bedbug fumigation requires a thorough all-or-none treatment with no kid-glove approach so as to prevent re-infestation and specie resistance to pesticides.
Although bedbugs are not known to cause or spread disease and their bites clear off without treatment in about a week, their presence could cause insomnia (lack of sleep) and severe itching that could contribute to secondary skin infection.
In some, psychological sequelae resulting from bedbug biting episodes could include nightmares, hypervigilance (to keep eyes on the bugs), anxiety, and personal dysfunction.
Unlike bedbugs, the anopheles mosquitoes are not strange to us in hostels and not as dreaded. But the reality remains that these blood-suckers also depend on blood for brooding and they were responsible for about 194,000 deaths in Nigeria (2021) as stated by statistics provided by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water in our gutters, bathrooms and other waterways, also in uncleared bushes. Hence, regular clearing of waterways and bushes are necessary in reducing mosquitoes and by that, malaria on campus. Some of our hostels are also abode to pets, like cats, and birds who just want to live and share space, having little or no interference with us and our activities.
Lastly, there are rare encounters with wild reptiles like snakes and alligators in some hostels. Bushes should be cleared frequently and students should be careful of treading bushy environs when it’s dark.
To keep our environment safe for habitation and free from rats, cockroaches, wild reptiles, bedbugs and mosquitoes, a significant step will involve imbibing personal hygiene and collective environmental cleanliness. And this would require commitment of all stakeholders, from the management, student leaders, cleaners to all residents of our halls of residence.