More Bed Bugs Found At Hamilton Ave. School

GreenwichTime.com
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Officials have found bedbugs at  Hamilton Avenue School on three occasions since a dead bedbug was discovered at the elementary school in October, the district confirmed Tuesday.

Greenwich Public Schools spokeswoman  Kim Eves said school officials found a single bedbug on three separate occasions earlier this month. Two of the bedbugs were alive, she said.

The discoveries came more than a month after officials found a dead bedbug at the school Oct. 27. Now, as then, exterminators have not found evidence of a widespread problem, Eves said.

"The building is not infested," Eves said. "We had the four isolated incidents."

On Dec. 2, a dead bedbug was found on a student's backpack. A second bedbug -- this one alive -- was found on the same student Dec. 9 during a morning search, Eves said. Another bedbug was found alive in a classroom Dec. 14. It is unclear if that bug can be traced back to the student, Eves said.

Bedbugs are parasitic insects that feed on human blood. They are not known to transmit any diseases.

Since the insects were discovered at the school, students in affected classrooms have been required to keep their belongings in plastic bags, Eves said. Other students must keep their belongings in their backpacks.

Eves said the school was treated following each incident.

"After the bugs were found, dead or alive, we had the exterminator come in," she said.

Parkway  Pest Services steam cleaned the classrooms in which bugs were found and brought in a bedbug-sniffing dog to search for additional bugs, Eves said. The three bugs found this month, as well as that found in October, were bagged and brought to the  Department of Health, she said.

"We are going to treat the whole school over the break," Eves said, adding that steam cleaning does not involve pesticides.

Sal Mancuso, whose grandson attends the school, said school officials sent out a message via the ParentLink system last week, alerting parents of the problem.

"They said they were aware of the problem and that they had it under control," he said.

Mancuso said the problem at Hamilton doesn't appear to be widespread. But his biggest concern is how the bugs are getting into the building.

"I've never had the problem myself," he said.

Another parent, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed receiving the ParentLink message and said school officials would be sending out additional information via letter about bedbugs and how the problem is being dealt with.

Eves confirmed the district is putting together a frequently asked questions packet for families about the Hamilton Avenue School incidents.

An information session with parents, the exterminator, and Department of Health officials was held Dec. 15, she added.

"The idea would be to always check a child for any insects," Eves said. "We advise them to do that every day anyway, because of ticks, which are a disease-carrying insect."

About the size of an apple seed, bedbugs are flat, brown and wingless. They leave a series of itchy bites in a straight line.

Exterminators use steam vacuums or large heaters, set to a bedbug-killing 130 degrees, to control an infestation.

At the time of the Oct. 27 bedbug incident,  John Pascarelli, of Greenwich-based  Bliss Pest Protection Services, said he had been called to schools in surrounding towns, but not Greenwich, to deal with bedbugs. Typically, the insects are brought to school by a student or teacher, he said.

"You want to be extra careful with pesticides in a school environment," Pascarelli told Greenwich Time at the time.

Pascarelli said the bugs have been found in movie theaters and even in some high-end New York City department stores, and "every three or four months" his company is called into a school somewhere in Connecticut.

Previously nearly eradicated in the developed world, bedbugs have increased in prevalence over the past decade. International travel is believed to be the main culprit behind the resurgence. While DDT was banned by the U.S. in 1972, it is still used in other countries, but bedbugs have become resistant.

"It's become such a pandemic in private homes," Pascarelli said. "It's only a matter of time before it's introduced into the schools."