Bug at school not an 'infestation'

Facebook photoA video on Facebook shows an insect on a table in the Michigan City High School cafeteria. MCAS says it has a contract with a pest control service to treat any areas where roaches or bedbugs are found, as outlined in state guidelines.

MICHIGAN CITY – A Facebook video showing what appears to be a cockroach in the cafeteria at Michigan City High School led to treatment of the area, and school officials say there is no infestation.

The short and grainy video, showing a small insect on one of the cafeteria tables, was sent to The News-Dispatch with a message claiming the school has a "roach and bedbug problem" that was not being addressed.

School officials say otherwise.

"That video clip was taken by a student in the cafeteria [Tuesday] and it appears to be a roach. It was quickly brought to the attention of staff and the pest control company was called to treat the area," Betsy Kohn, communications director for the Michigan City Area Schools said.

MCAS has a contract with a pest control company to treat the cafeteria and other areas of the school on a regular basis, she said.

A bedbug was also "spotted recently at MCHS and again, the area was thoroughly cleaned and treated by the pest control company," Kohn said.

She said parents were notified about the discovery.

"Bedbugs, lice and other pests are unfortunately things that occur from time to time in schools and other public places. They also tend to become very popular to post and share on social media," Kohn said.

But, she added, "There is not a big roach and bedbug problem at the high school."

Information on bedbugs is available on the MCAS website because it's "an issue that comes up from time to time," Kohn said. "They can be 'hitchikers' and come to school on backpacks, etc., but it is very rare. So far we have only seen isolated single bugs, not infestations."

Anytime a staff member or student at any school reports seeing a bedbug at school (which is rare), the classroom is inspected, the website says.

"Our inspections to date have found only isolated adult bugs, not an infestation. An infestation is a more serious situation, occurring when bed bug eggs and nymphs are found in addition to a single adult."

While it is "unlikely for bedbugs to infest a school," MCAS conducts regular inspections and, if needed, "will implement an integrated pest management plan in the area. MCAS works with licensed pest control specialists to assist with pest management."

A article titled "Guidelines for Dealing with Bed Bugs in a School Setting" on the University of Minnesota website says infestations in a school setting are rare.

"Actual bed bug infestations in schools are uncommon, more often a few bed bugs will hitchhike from an infested home on a student’s possessions. On the occasion that an infestation starts, it will be because bedbugs have found a site where people rest or sit for a time. A common example of this is with the younger grades, or preschool, where rest time or nap time still occurs," the article states.

"The most common way for bed bugs to enter a school is through 'hitchhiking' from an infested site. Usually this will be from a student, staff or teacher’s home which has a bedbug infestation. While teachers and staff can be more easily addressed, dealing with students or parents can be challenging, especially if the family cannot afford proper control measures or their landlord refuses to properly treat their home."

According to MCAS, if a bedbug is found on a child or in his or her belongings, parents will be notified immediately and sent additional information. Personal items suspected to have bedbugs are secured in plastic bags or containers to prevent them from spreading.

The Indiana State Department of Health agrees with those guidelines. According to its School Guidance for Management of Bedbugs policy: "Bedbugs are more likely to feed during the night-time hours and reside in places where people sleep. Therefore, infestations of school buildings are uncommon, although bed bugs may 'hitchhike' on a student’s clothing, books or backpack from an infested home.

"Schools, in conjunction with the State Entomology Lab and the Local Health Department, should develop a policy to minimize the spread of bedbugs," ISDH says.

It also offers guidance on dealing with a potential infestation in the home of a student or on school property, but adds it is "not recommended to exclude students from school" for an infestation in the home, and "school closure related to bed bugs is not recommended during an infestation."

In October, four schools in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area were closed for one day for treatment after bedbugs were found in one school, and in a student's backpack at a second. The Steel Valley School District decided to treat all four schools as a precaution.

Also in October, an elementary school in Brunswick, Ohio, was closed for two days for treatment after a bedbug was found in a student's folder.

BUDBUGS AGE-OLD PROBLEM

Bed bugs have been a problem for centuries – and from time to time, you may encounter them at home or in public places, according to the Michigan City Area Schools website.

It says the bugs are active mainly at night, and hide during the day "usually somewhere near where people sleep. They are a nuisance, but their bites do not spread disease. Bites may become swollen and itch, much like a mosquito bite. ... If you have medical concerns for yourself or your child, please contact your doctor."

The source of bedbugs cannot easily be determined, "as they can be found in many public places, including hotels, planes and movie theaters," the site said. "Unlike head lice, bedbugs do not live on a person. However, they can 'hitchhike' from one place to another in backpacks, clothing, luggage, books, computers, and other items."

For more information, visit:

MCAS: educateMC.net/bedbugs

La Porte County Health Department: laportecounty.org/HealthSafety/HealthDepartment/FoodProtection/VectorControl/

Purdue University: extension.entm.purdue.edu/publichealth/insects/bedbug.html

Indiana State Dept. of Health: in.gov/isdh/24955.htm

Centers for Disease Control: cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/index.html

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