Bed bugs are associated with dingy motel rooms, but more of these creepy crawlers are showing up in the most surprising places - including public schools!
School authorities in many areas are scrambling to dispel misconceptions and provide constructive information to help educators and parents keep the outbreaks under control. However, the news has many parents concerned about the safety of their children in school, as well as the possible infestations of the critter that could occur in their own homes.
What is a Bed Bug?
According to the Mayo Clinic, bed bugs are flat, oval creatures that are reddish brown in color. They are about the size of an apple seed, but are traditionally difficult to locate because they spend their days hiding in headboards, box springs and the cracks and crevices of mattresses. They come out to feed in the middle of the night, which is why people who have bed bugs in their homes typically wake up in the morning with evidence of bites on their face, neck, arms and hands. Bed bugs can be quite difficult to exterminate completely, particularly if the infestation has significantly grown before it was discovered.
Bed bug bites often appear as small red bumps with a smaller red dot in the middle. They are usually arranged in a line or cluster, and they can be quite itchy. In most cases, bed bug bites do not cause any major medical concerns, unless a person has an allergic reaction to them. Allergies might manifest as severe itching, blisters or hives. People that have an allergic reaction to bed bug bites often must seek professional treatment.
While bed bugs are not a serious medical concern, they can present a significant headache for a household. These stubborn critters can be quite difficult to exterminate and usually require professional services to do so. It can also take some time to completely extinguish a bed bug infestation, with some homes requiring many months of treatment before the creatures are completely gone.
The Prevalence of Bed Bugs
While isolated incidences of bed bugs have cropped up in various isolated schools, the problem does seem to be prevalent across the country. According to reports on BedBugger.com, states reporting bed bug outbreaks include Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Colorado and New Hampshire.
According to a report at CBS 2 earlier this year, a Chicago high school sent a letter home to parents warning of the presence of bed bug sightings at the school. Seven bed bugs had been sighted on all three levels of the school over a two-and-a-half-week period. Brenda Colon, a parent of a 15-year-old at the school, told CBS, "I couldn't believe it. I asked my son about it but he said, yeah, that they said that there's bed bugs, but I checked him and I don't see any on him."
In Westwood, Ohio, this month, exterminators were called in to address a bed bug problem at a local elementary school, according to FOX19.com. Westwood is just outside of Cincinnati, which has been named one of the most bed bug prone cities in the country. Parents of the affected students at the school were notified by letter of the problem, and students' belongings were sent home in sealed plastic bags. Parents were urged to seek the services of a professional pest control company if they were worried about infestations in their homes.
In Indiana, a Moore County elementary school dealt with its own bed bug infestation last spring, according to WTHR.com. The school hosted a parent meeting to inform parents of the problem and provide additional information about how to protect their children and deal with potential infestations in their own homes. Officials in Indiana were not completely surprised by the discovery, however. Dr. Marc. Lame, an entomologist from Indiana University told WTHR, "We've definitely had problems in apartments. Some of the hotels have had bed bugs. So we knew this was going to happen."
A report at New York Daily News cites a new state law that requires health officials to notify parents if bed bugs are found on school premises. This law went into effect after a flurry of reported bed bug cases in 11 Queens schools in 2007. However, not all states have laws that require schools to alert parents.
If parents find evidence of bed bugs in their homes, such as bites on the face, arms and hands in the morning, they should call a professional pest control company. While bed bugs bites are not typically serious, the sooner you address a potential infestation, the more likely you will be to eliminate the creatures completely from your home.