CHILLICOTHE, OH - Head lice long have been taboo for children
and a headache for parents and for schools.
Now, as if those little critters aren't bad enough, there's
another nuisance parents and schools might want to be on the
While bedbugs don't live directly on the human body as head lice
do, they can be carried from an infested home into a school setting
by hitching a ride on clothing, a coat, a book bag, and even
blankets or pillows.
"Bedbug infestations in
schools aren't very common, but schools and child care centers can
serve as places where the bugs can jump from the possessions of one
student to the possessions of another," said Kelly Spindler,
director of environmental health at the Ross County Health
District. "In schools, coats and book bags usually hang close
together in a tight space, which means they can easily catch a ride
to a new home."
Because bedbugs are not thought to carry or spread disease, they
are not considered a "public health nuisance," but a nuisance they
are. The health district is neither authorized nor required to
inspect schools -- or homes -- for the insects and
cannot order that they be exterminated if there is an
Bedbugs are brownish in color and similar in size to an apple
seed. However, they usually are flat and can live in very small
cracks and crevices, such as behind baseboards and under wallpaper,
as well as between mattresses and box springs. They feed on human
blood, usually at night, while the host sleeps.
"Bedbugs inject an anesthetic so that the person being bitten
will not feel the bite and wake up," Spindler said. "They tend to
bite exposed areas of skin, which can be the face, neck, arms,
legs, back ... whatever they can get to."
She said the bites affect everyone differently, but often appear
in semi-straight lines. The danger comes if a bite site becomes
infected through scratching, not to mention the emotional toll an
infestation can have on a family.
While schools are not required to report bedbugs, the health
district asked them to do so during a recent meeting with the
"Even though we have no authority and no response requirements
when it comes to bedbugs, we'd like to know what's going on in the
schools," said Rami Yoakum, director of communications for the
health district. "What's happening in the schools is certainly an
indicator of what's going on in our community as a whole."
Yoakum said the health district is providing information to area
schools and is willing to do what it can to help.
Unfortunately, he added, the only way to eliminate bedbugs is
through the use of a professional exterminator -- which can be
"We get quite a few calls every month, and we
check in periodically with the local pest control people to see how
many calls they're getting," he said. "It's important that we all
do what we can to prevent their spread. If we allow bedbugs to take
hold in our community, we'll all be vulnerable."
He said self-treatment is not recommended. Many of the chemicals
are as dangerous to human health as to the insects themselves.