Pest Management at IU

Pest Management and Vector Control for Zoonotic and Vector-Borne Disease

A pest is any animal, plant, or other organism that causes injury or emotional distress to people or damage to buildings, landscaping, crops, or other outdoor areas. Pest management includes all of the strategies employed to prevent pests from causing injury or damage. It includes professional pest control and removal as well as strategies that professionals and individuals can implement to exclude pests from environments where they are not wanted and deny them the safe harbor, food, and water that they need to survive through building maintenance, housekeeping, and routine monitoring.

At IU, interior and exterior pest control and removal is provided by Facility Operations or RPS professionals. Needs for these services should be communicated to your building management staff.

While all pests are nuisances in some way, some are also vectors, which are living organisms that can transmit infectious diseases between humans or from animals to humans. Diseases transmitted from animals to humans are referred to as zoonotic diseases. IUEHS focuses on providing guidance and educational resources to address nuisance pests that cause public health concerns and vector pests that harbor and spread disease. The sections below provide information and  steps that you can take to help protect yourself and the IU community.

Bed bugs are a reddish-brown type of wingless insect found worldwide, that feed off the blood of humans and other mammals such as birds and bats. Bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases to humans, but their bites can cause local irritation or allergic reactions and can disrupt sleep and mental health.

IUEHS has developed inspection and response protocols for campuses and vendors to use to effectively address bed bug problems that may arise in University facilities. The resources above can assist with inspection, detection, prevention, and elimination. If you believe you have bed bugs, notify your center desk, housing assistant, property manager, or house director for on-campus housing. For academic buildings, contact your building manager or facility operations. The EHS public health staff is available for education, training, and general consultation.

Exposure Requiring Immediate Attention

If you are bitten, scratched, or saliva from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or wounds, wash the affected area thoroughly and get medical attention immediately due to the potential for rabies. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system. If a person does not receive the appropriate medical care after a potential rabies exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain, ultimately resulting in death. Rabies can be prevented by vaccinating pets, staying away from wildlife, and seeking medical care after potential exposures before symptoms start.

If a person is bitten by a bat on campus, the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) requires that the University follow specific procedures, report the exposure and have the bat tested according to IAC 410 1-2.5-80. Do not attempt to capture the bat yourself. IUEHS can assist with arranging any necessary rabies testing.

A bat should be tested for rabies at the IDOH lab if:

  • it has bitten a person or animal
  • it could have bitten someone without them knowing
  • it has had direct contact with a human or animal
  • it is found in a room with someone who might be unaware of contact; such as someone sleeping, a child, a mentally disabled person, or someone who is intoxicated

Contact IU EHS regarding any suspected animal bites, bat scratches, or saliva exposures by calling 812-855-2004 or emailing iuehs@indiana.edu.

Removal and Exclusion from Buildings

Notify your center desk, housing assistant, property manager, or house director when a bat is located within your on-campus housing unit that needs removal. For academic buildings, contact your building manager or facility operations.

Removal of a Small Amount of Bat or Bird Droppings

Bats and birds often defecate before they enter a building or anywhere they roost. Over time, if nothing is done these droppings can build up and potentially pose a health risk. The following can be employed to remove small amounts of accumulated droppings. Large amounts of droppings should be removed by a professional company.

  • Personal Protection Equipment:
    • Safety glasses or goggles
    • Latex gloves
    • Respirator providing adequate protection
  • Spray the area with a mixture of bleach and water (ratio of 1 part of bleach to 9 parts of cool water) just to dampen the area.  This will also prevent aerosolizing any droppings during removal.  Scoop up droppings and place in a plastic bag and dispose.
  • After the droppings have been removed, scrub the area with the same concentration of bleach water, rinse thoroughly.  Place contaminated gloves in plastic bag and dispose of bag in trash.

Mosquitoes and ticks are what are known as vectors of disease, which are agents that carry and transmit infectious pathogens into another living organism, in this case, humans. Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in Indiana. Lyme disease is spread to humans when bitten by an infected tick. The most common mosquito-borne disease is West Nile Virus, which is primarily transmitted in Indiana by the bites of female mosquitoes in the genus Culex.

Actually, the mosquito is the most deadly animal in the world. Every year mosquitoes transmit hundreds of millions of infections and kill an estimated 725,000 people.

Mosquitoes are most active in the United States from June through September. However, they will emerge as soon as the temperature is consistently above 55⁰ F. In Indiana, there are approximately 55 species of mosquitos that have been identified.

Use the resources above to learn more about mosquito-borne diseases and how to prevent them.