Bed Bugs Found at Lakewood High School

Asbury Park Press
Friday, November 4, 2011

LAKEWOOD - Health department officials were at Lakewood High School Thursday where bedbugs have been found and identified by experts. But the clear message to parents from the department is: Bedbugs don't spread disease, only fear.

"The district did identify a limited number of bedbugs and immediately contacted county officials," said Michael Inzelbuch, attorney for the Lakewood Board of Education. "The school is taking appropriate action per the state health department." Inzelbuch did not specify the board's immediate plan for ridding the school of the nagging critters.

Inzelbuch said he did not have particular information about which rooms were found to have infestations or if parents would be notified via a letter .

Bedbugs bite, but the critters are not able to spread disease, said Leslie Terjesen, spokeswoman for the Ocean County Health Department. Bedbugs do not pose a health threat and people should not panic over this discovery. The bite of a bedbug is similar to a mosquito bite and can leave a welt.

Schools are not typically a hospitable environment for bedbugs, but they can be found anywhere, Terjesen said.

Members of the Ocean County Health Department went to the high school on Thursday and educated the teachers about the bugs after a certified entomologist made a positive identification of the bugs that were found in the school.

Some recommendations could be that students not commingle clothing because that is how the critters can move from one place to another, Terjesen said.

The management of an infestation is outlined by the state Department of Environmental Protection, health officials said.

"Especially in a school," you don't want to use chemicals around children, Terjesen said. Schools must have an "integrated pest management plan" for any kind of bug that could find its way into a school, she said.

Educating the public about bedbugs is an important part of the response to the pests, Terjesen said.

It is important, especially in a school, and because bedbugs have such a stigma, that people realize that anyone can transport a bedbug from one place to another. Bedbugs can be transported "in backpacks, clothing, luggage, books and other items," she said.

"We would never want a child ostracized," Terjesen said. "If you bring something to school, it is not your fault."

"If bedbugs have been found repeatedly in a particular classroom, have the room inspected by a pest management professional and other trained staff," according to the county's website on handling bedbug infestations in school.