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Friday, September 11, 2015

Tolsia High In West Virginia Closed: Are Bed Bugs an Epidemic?

"A Wayne County, West Virginia high school is closed after a bed bug was found in a classroom.

"Tolsia High Principal Reva Sanders-Wallace says students were dismissed early Thursday (September 10) after a teacher and students discovered the insect in a classroom. The school was closed Friday so an exterminator could treat the building, according to media reports."

(Staff Report. "Bed bug sighting closes Wayne County high school."
Charleston Gazette-Mail. September 10, 2015.)

Of course, news about this tiny pest invading local schools spreads fear and anxiety that rivals a suspected terrorist attack. Even if that fear is largely unwarranted, any hint of bed bug infestation is seen as a real health threat most would have dismissed not that many years ago. Now, people fear any public contact could initiate widespread problems. Is the fear worse than the reality? That is a good question.

The Tolsia High School has taken these appropriate measures to insure the safety of students and staff. Principal Reva Sanders-Wallace said, “It (the bed bug) was secured, sealed in a plastic bag and brought to my attention."

We wanted to address it from the onset, from the very first sighting, before it became an issue,” Sanders-Wallace said. She said the sighting doesn’t indicate an infestation, and it shouldn’t be seen as a reflection of Tolsia High.

“It’s a venue where you have a great number of people convening, children coming from various homes and various environments and various situations, and it is not isolated to us,” she said. “This occurs in many different school districts nationwide.”

Bed Bugs!

America has been reported to be under attack by an unstoppable army of millimeter-sized parasites. Media reports have bed bug "epidemics" plaguing cities from New York City to Bloomington, Indiana, to Los Angeles.

Once believed to be eradicated in the United States during the 1950s, bed bugs are making a big comeback in many states. Now, bed bug populations are definitely on the rise. Few dispute this. But, is this a disturbing, new health epidemic that threatens life and limb, or is it more of a nuisance brought back to life?

"Sleep Tight and Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite"

What are bed bugs? They are flat, reddish-brown, wingless insects about the size of an apple seed that tend to hide in mattress where their victims sleep and are attracted to carbon dioxide and body heat.   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.

Evidences also suggest that the typical life span of a bed bug is about 12 to 18 months and they are able to live for several months without feeding on a host.

Bed bug 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. 

Bed Bug Epidemic?

Alexis Barbarin, a Ph.D. candidate in entomology at Penn State says, "An epidemic suggests "a mental picture of something huge, serious, and possibly life-threatening." The Centers for Disease Control has hesitated to call the bed bug problem an epidemic because they do not spread disease. "Have bed bug infestations reached epidemic proportions?" Barbarin asks. "In my opinion, no. But will they if we do not do anything about it? Probably so."

(Jesse Hicks. "Probing Question: Why are bed bugs on the rise?"
Penn State News. August 10, 2010.)

Experts say, contrary to popular imagination, infestations are not caused by poor housekeeping or hygiene, nor are the bugs found only in poor neighborhoods. Yet these commonly held misconceptions can prevent people from taking appropriate precautions. They also create a social stigma that can keep people from reporting infestations.

In fact, bed bugs have even been found in New York City's highest-class hotels. They are opportunist bloodsuckers, which make them most disgusting to the public, and they are comfortable in many environments. While bed bug bites can cause redness, itching and allergic reactions in some people, however according to Mayo Clinic, there are no evidence to suggest that bed bugs transmit disease.

According to a new 2012 report in PR Newswire, New York City has been named the third most bed bug infested cities in the United States. This list below shows the top 15 most heavily infested US cities:
  1. Philadelphia
  2. Cincinnati
  3. New York City
  4. Chicago
  5. Detroit
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. Columbus, Ohio
  8. San Francisco
  9. Denver
  10. New Haven, Conn.
  11. Dallas
  12. Houston
  13. Indianapolis
  14. Miami
  15. Cleveland
("Bed Bugs In New York." bedbugsremoval.com.)

Why Are Bed Bugs Back?

Scientists such as Alexis Barbarin have several hypotheses about the recent increase in bed bug populations. Among them are the following:

* The affordability of air travel has made it easy to reach almost anywhere in the world quickly and cheaply, so some travelers "bring back unintended souvenirs."

* Increased urbanization has pushed people closer together, making it easy for infestations to spread if untreated.

* Attitudes toward pesticides have changed, and routine pesticide spraying has become less frequent, as people became wary of its large-scale environmental effects. While today many consumers want "green" pest-control solutions, in a former era, powerful pesticides such as DDT would have been on the front lines fighting bed bugs. Of course it is now banned due to ecological concerns.

* While some experts suggest bringing DDT back, bed bugs had shown resistance to the chemical as early as 1946. Another class of pesticides, called pyrethroids, has largely replaced DDT—but bed bugs have also shown resistance to these compounds. The only solution to the pesticide-resistance problem, Barbarin says, is more research and more public education.

(Jesse Hicks. "Probing Question: Why are bed bugs on the rise?"
Penn State News. August 10, 2010.)

The West Virginia school closure is not the first closure in recent years. In 2011, other schools in a number of states closed off classrooms -- or entire buildings -- because of bedbugs. That school year 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 a report revealed by the New York Education Department, there were a record of 1,019 confirmed cases of bed bugs in the 2009-10 school year -- an 88 percent increase from the previous school year.
And in 2011, in New York City, the number of confirmed bedbug cases in the first five months of the school year reported 1,7000 cases. the city’s Department of Education reported.

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.

(Valerie Strauss. "Bedbugs at school: The new lice but worse."
The Washington Post. February 11, 2011.)

Buckeye Bugs

Beg bugs continue to be spotted in schools all across Ohio. Here are some sightings:

In October 2012, University of Cleveland Preparatory School was shut down after a few of the creepy critters were spotted roaming the halls.

In January 2013, Parma Park Elementary School was treated for bed bugs after a confirmed case of was discovered.

In October 2013, Whetstone High School in Columbus found two bed bugs inside the building.

In October 2014, Newark High School urged the school district to take action against bed bugs when they were spotted on a teenager in the lunchroom.

Looking at the PR Newswire findings, Ohio is prime territory for the insects with Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland all making the Top 15 List of Most Bed Bug Infested Cities in the United States. Many school districts have developed a protocol for dealing with bed bugs and possible infestations. Click here for a PDF example from Cincinnati Public Schools: www.bed-bugs-handbook.com/.../cps_bed_bug_protocol_for_schools.pdf.

Of course, schools must remain vigilant for bed bugs. Although treating a bed bug infestation may be very difficult and costly, the sooner an infestation is detected the easier it will be to control the infestation. In addition, there are additional steps that can be taken to prevent future infestations.
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