Because of the rise of the bed bug epidemic researchers and public health officials are concerned that the little unwanted bugs are going to spread through schools. Why? Because the little brown bugs can easily get transported from home to school on children’s clothes and their backpacks. They can also be transported to other homes this way and therefore cause even more bed bug infestations. Jennifer Smith Richards wrote an article for The Columbus Dispatch called “Schools Risk Bed Bug Problems.” According to Richards two different schools in Franklin County (Ohio) have had bed bug sightings and contacted the public health department.
Schools are often notoriously known for having head lice problems which can be difficult to get rid of but bed bugs are even harder to exterminate in schools. Why? According to Susan C. Jones, an urban entomologist at Ohio State University, you know where to look when it comes to head lice. But bed bugs? They could be anywhere and everywhere. They can also be transported easily to other places and thus the infestation gets even worse. Bed bugs are often called “hitchhikers” because of this. Schools sometimes need to be closed down and fumigated and health departments don’t want that to happen.
Last year a school in Kentucky was closed down because of bed bugs and the problem is only getting worse. Both parents and school officials are concerned and worried about this problem. They want to know what they can do to help. According to Greg Kesterman, director of the environmental health division for Hamilton County Public Health, you’re guaranteed to see bed bugs show up in public facilities because they are able to crawl on and travel with a person. And this is the case with any type of insect that has these capabilities. The important thing is to notice and catch the problem before it becomes too big.
In the 1950’s harsh pesticides were used to kill and take care of bed bug problems but now these pesticides are banned. The result? Bed begs are back and in full force. They are everywhere! They’ve been brought back with travelers and are found in homes, schools, dorm rooms, apartment complexes, businesses, hotels and many other places. The Franklin County Board of Health established a central Ohio bedbug task force with intentions to keep an eye on the bed bug population. They also plan to discuss how to handle complaints and inform the public. The board hopes that other districts will see what they are doing and join to help with the situation. Their ultimate goal is that all schools in the district will have workable tools that all schools can use, whether private or public.
The school nurses in Columbus schools are also prepared to look out for bugs and report any seen. They also are prepared to talk with families and students if any are found. If bed bugs are found during the school day on a backpack or clothing item one easy thing that can be done is to seal the backpack or clothing in a plastic bag. In general, officials don’t believe that students should be banned from school if a bed bug is spotted on them or their belongings.
Many agree that the health department should be more involved, they tend to stand back because bed bugs aren’t considered to be a health hazard, but it may be too late when the bed bug problem has exploded.