Bedbug Cases on Pace to Triple in NYC
NBC New York
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
By Geoffrey Decker
View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.
Bedbugs are plaguing New York
City public schools like never before, according to the
latest stats from the Department of Education.
City schools reported 1,700 confirmed bedbug cases in just
the first five months of the school year -- a rate that's on
pace to triple last year's total of 1,019
The parasitic pests have thrived in the winter season, it
appears, with 80 percent of cases having been
reported during November, December and January.
"It's just an outbreak and I don't know how they can stop it,"
said Wendy Tatum, a mother at
PS 54 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of hundreds of schools to
have had at least one confirmed case.
The Dept. of Ed is required to record any incidents where an
infestation is found, but spokesperson Marge Feinberg said this uptick
in cases is fueled not by infestations but by individual
students who come to school with bedbugs.
"It is important to know that schools are not hospitable places
for bedbugs," Feinberg said. "They are brought into schools from
Last year, city officials acknowledged the bedbug resurgence
reached "an unprecedented rate of spread" and pledged to combat the
crisis with $500,000 to raise public awareness.
In schools, that meant a new four-step
protocol for dealing with cases and increased communication
between schools and parents. But those efforts have been futile
because so many homes are already infested.
And while private homes continue to be the source of most
infestations, bedbugs hitchhike on the clothes and bags of their
hosts to spead elsewhere, experts say.
"Bedbugs need to be where people are," said Missy
Henrickson, of the National Pest Management Association. "So
when you have homes infested with bedbugs, (students) who live
there are carrying the bedbugs on them and bringing them into
With 1.1 million students and 100,000 teachers, New York's schools
serve as a major transportation hub for bedbugs and present an
enormous challenge for pest control professionals trying reduce the
In winter months, when students come to school with more personal
belongings, like gloves, hats and coats, the problem is even
"Schools are a major transfer point from one place to another,"
said Elio Chiavola, owner of
Metro Bed Bug Dogs, a Brooklyn-based company that
specializes in treating private residences for bed bugs. "It's been
a huge problem for schools."
A more nuanced explanation for the surge might be that
people are more aware of the epidemic and better equipped to look
for and identify the crumb-sized insects.
Feinberg declined to name specific schools. A bedbug advisory
report last year noted that bedbugs were found in 243 schools in
541 cases from the 2008-2009 school year, suggesting that that
number could be much higher for this year's total.