Recently bed bugs have made a dramatic resurgence. Safety and environmental concerns have led to greater restriction of pesticides and bed bugs have developed resistance to many widely used pesticides. Couple this with the transient nature of many segments of society, increased domestic and international travel, and we have a recipe for the rapid spread of infestations. In the past few years, bed bugs have been found in hotels, shelters, hospitals, universities, schools, apartments and homes. Bed bugs don’t discriminate, and will infest any human dwelling, from the most cramped student apartment to the most luxurious five-star hotel.
Bed bugs are difficult to control because they are so skilled at hiding, which allows them to travel in our belongings (clothing items, luggage, furniture, electronics, etc.) without our knowledge. Most people do not even realize they have visited somewhere with an infestation and bring the bed bugs back to their residence. Once established in a residence or unit in a building, the bed bugs can travel between rooms or apartments on their own or on people’s clothing or other belongings.
SCHOOLS AND CHILD CARE CENTRES
In general, schools and institutional child care centre environments are not conducive to bed bug infestations. Bed bugs prefer an environment where they can hide during the day and come out at night to feed on a sleeping host. Because most schools and institutional child care centres do not provide this type of environment, major infestations of school and child care centre buildings are rare. However, bed bugs hiding in clothing or backpacks can hitchhike to and from schools and child care centres, potentially providing a hub for bed bug spread. Because bed bugs can travel in belongings, it is prudent for schools and child care centres to keep individual children’s belongings separate.
Currently there is no scientific evidence demonstrating that enforced exclusion policies are effective at reducing bed bug transmission in the school environment. If bed bugs were found on a student, an appropriate response plan would include the following:
- Staff would be trained to identify bed bugs and the signs of bed bugs in the classroom and children’s items. This may include actual insects, cast skins or excessive insect bites on a child.
- Any student with bed bugs identified on their person or in their belongings may remain in school until the end of the day.
- Respond promptly to bed bug complaints within the school and through contact and counselling with parents/ caregivers. The longer bed bug infestations are allowed to persist, the harder they are to eradicate.
- Parents/caregivers should promptly respond to bed bugs in the home for the health and safety of the family and school community.
- An established school Integrated Pest Management Plan (IPM) plan.
WHAT TO DO IF A BED BUG IS FOUND AT SCHOOL?
If a bed bug is found on a child in school or child care centre, it does not mean the child brought the bed bug into the school or child care centre. Bed bugs do not infest people, they only feed on them. Bed bugs can crawl onto or off of a person (or their belongings) at any time. If a suspected bed bug is found on a child, a child’s belongings or anywhere else in a school or child care centre, contact the divisional Safety Officer and follow the procedures below:
- If the bug was found on a child or a child’s belongings, the child should be discreetly removed from the classroom so that the child’s clothing and other belongings can be examined. Any bugs found should be removed and collected for identification. Try to keep the specimens as intact as possible. DO NOT throw it out or remove any infested items as you may cause a further infestation in another area.
- The school principal or child care centre program director should contact the divisional Safety Officer for assistance. Identification of the specimen(s) as well as the sex of the specimen is important and it is necessary to confirm that the bugs found really are bed bugs before proceeding.
- If the specimen is confirmed to be a bed bug, then the school principal or daycare centre program director should notify the affected class or classes. Facilities & Operations department must be informed in case pest management is required for treatment.
- If a confirmed bed bug was found on a child, then the school principal or nurse or centre program director should inform the child’s parents or guardian by phone.
- Students are not excluded from school or child care due to bed bugs. Schools and child care centres will not be closed due to the discovery of bed bugs. As discussed above, infestation of a school or child care centre building is unlikely, rather the school or child care centre may become a source of dispersal to others in the school environment. For instance, bed bugs brought into the school in a child’s book-bag or on their clothing could drop off in the classroom or in a locker. The bed bugs might then be picked up and taken home by another student or staff member inadvertently.
- For children/students who repeatedly come to school with bed bugs, institute clothing and school item sanitation. In an infested home, parents should store their child’s freshly laundered clothing in sealed plastic bags until they are put on in the morning. This prevents bed bugs from hiding in the clothing and being carried to school. Backpacks, lunch boxes and other items that travel back and forth to school can also be inspected daily and stored in sealed plastic containers at home to prevent bed bugs from getting into them. At school, the student could be provided with plastic bags or bins in which to store their belongings in order to prevent any bed bugs from spreading to other students’ belongings.
- In the unusual instance where a child repeatedly reports to school showing evidence of bed bugs despite previous notification, education and counselling with parents, further investigation is needed. Repeated bed bug presence may be due the following: Inability of parents/caregiver to recognize the scope of an infestation at home. Failure to effectively treat a recognized infestation – this might be due to pest management failure, landlord/tenant dispute, lack of financial resources, repeated re-infestation from outside of the home (all places a student sleeps or visits, consider family members as well), non-vigilance or lack of concern on the part of the parent. Failure to adhere to recommended clothing and school item sanitation recommendations. Investigate other sources of bed bugs on school property such as lockers, buses, common areas or other areas where students routinely congregate.
For more information on bed bugs see the related links to the right.