Bed Bugs Continue To Bedevil Harrisburg School District

PennLive.com
Friday, March 23, 2012

An infestation of bedbugs at an area school is continuing to bedevil  Harrisburg School Districtadministrators.

For the last several weeks, the district has been  battling the insects at Camp Curtin Elementary.

"We have been doing everything we can to get rid of them," said Sybil Knight-Burney, district superintendent. "But what we can't control is people bringing them in."

Knight-Burney said the school has torn out carpets in the affected classrooms, has been bagging children's coats and spraying a non-toxic dust to try and contain and control the insects.
However, because the tiny bugs are present in the homes of some children, the district cannot totally prevent them from traveling back and forth.

The school has been reaching out to families who have the bugs in their homes, to provide what assistance it can - mostly advice.

However, because bedbugs are not considered dangerous pests, the district cannot force children to stay home if the bugs are found in their homes.

"Every child has a right to come to school," Knight-Burney said. "We don't want anyone to be denied an education."

There are no statistics on how often these  types of situations occur because the state Department of Health does not track bedbug infestations. Nor does it inspect for them. Because they do not spread disease, the insects are considered more of a pest than a health hazard.

The ongoing situation is causing some parents to become upset with what they perceive as a lack of action by the district.

Elizabeth Garcia, who has four children in the school, said she was "very upset" that the bedbugs have not been taken care of.

"It's scary," she said. "It makes me not want to send my kids to school."

In the meantime, the district has hired an exterminator, who was inspecting Camp Curtin on Thursday.

The exterminator will then recommend a course of action to the district which will be acted upon, she said.

Knight-Burney said she was hopeful that work - whatever it entails - could begin as quickly as this weekend.

"Closing the schools is not going to stop the bugs," she said. "I apologize for any of the inconveniences families ... and our staff have to go through."

Dealing with bed bugs:

  • Vacuum mattresses, carpets, floors and small crevices. Dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag by encasing it in plastic and immediately disposing it in an outside garbage can.
  • Seal mattresses and box springs in impermeable plastic or vinyl cases.
  • Wash and dry all clothing and linens in high heat, or have it dry cleaned.
  • Eliminate clutter and dispose of items that cannot be cleaned. Seal cracks and remove loose wallpaper.
  • Choose pest removal companies that have extensive experience with bedbugs.
  • Avoid using pesticide foggers or bombs.
  • Destroy or post warnings on discarded furniture or other items.