Bedbugs at school: The new lice but worse
Public schools are facing something of a plague, and, for once, I do not mean standardized tests. Rather, bedbugs.
Schools in a number of states have closed off classrooms -- or the entire building -- because of bedbugs this school year, and Michigan government officials issued a document telling schools how to handle any infestations, complete with a template of a parent notification letter (“Dear Parent or Guardian: We recently found a bed bug in your child’s classroom....”).
In New York City, the number of confirmed bedbug cases in the first five months of the school is on pace to triple last year’s total. City schools have so far reported 1,7000 cases this academic year, the city’s Department of Education reported.
Schools are accustomed to dealing with seasonal outbreaks of head lice; kids unfortunate to get a case go home and get rid of them with special shampoo and often time-consuming hair combing. (Bedsheets and other things in the house also have to be washed.)
Bedbugs are harder to eliminate; researchers say they are becoming resistant to pesticides (as are lice).
Infestations are relatively new (even if bedbugs themselves are prehistoric) and growing in the United States. The U.S. government just convened its second two-day National Bed Bug Summit in Washington D.C., where panels to discussed how to control these pests on a community-wide basis. Federal officials are working on a national strategy for bed bug control.
How do bedbugs get to school? By hopping onto kids' backpacks and clothes. And they don't just hide in beds, so they are hard to locate.
According to the Mayo Clinic, bedbugs are reddish brown, oval and flat, about the size of an apple seed. During the day, they hide in the cracks and crevices of beds, box springs, headboards and bed frames but come out at night to feed -- on human blood; people wake up in the morning with evidence of bites on their face, neck, arms and hands. They can be extremely difficult to eradicate.
Bedbug bites often appear as small red bumps with a smaller red dot in the middle, usually arranged in a line or cluster, and often quite itchy. In most cases, bedbug bites do not cause any major medical concerns, unless a person has an allergic reaction to them.
While bedbugs feast at night and not while kids are learning math and history during the day, the concern of health officials is that they will find their way into more homes, creating new infestations.
As if schools don't have enough problems.
Follow my blog every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!
| February 11, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Health | Tags: bedbug eradication, bedbug summit, bedbugs, bedbugs in school, how to get rid of bedbugs, lice
Save & Share: Previous: Why our metrics for quality are not objective
Next: Texas district schools chief issues plea in Alamo-like letter
Posted by: RichardPollack | February 11, 2011 8:56 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsallamack | February 11, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jlynn55 | February 11, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsallamack | February 11, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jodicoop | February 11, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: frankb1 | February 11, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse