Waterbury, Connecticut: let’s try less shame, and better information about bed bugs

by nobugsonme on October 23, 2008 · 1 comment

in bed bugs, bed bugs in schools, bed bugs in the workplace, connecticut, misinformation

Channel 3 in Waterbury, Connecticut reported today,

School: Boy Brought Bed Bugs to Class; Parents Urged to Check Children

There’s a lot wrong in that statement alone, let alone the report that follows.

First, check your children?!?

Bed bugs do not live on children. They are not like lice.

They may be carried briefly in clothing or harbor in bags.

But they primarily live in places: in beds, chairs or other furniture, in floors and walls. The child picked bed bugs up somewhere: could it be home? School? In a friend’s home, relative’s home, afterschool care? Restaurant? Public transportation? On the school bus right before he came to school? It could be anywhere.

Home is a likely source but not the only one by any means.

So what you need to check, or carefully inspect, or better yet have a professional (who is experienced with bed bugs) carefully inspect, is the physical environment the child lives in, goes to school in, and otherwise spends time in.

Second, the news report says bed bugs are the “size of a poppy seed and range in color from white to dark red.” Not quite accurate.

Bed bugs have five nymphal (pre-adult) life stages and one adult life stage. The smallest nymphs are 1/32 inch (1 mm) — as long as the thickness of a credit card. But adults are closer to 1/6 inch (6 mm) or a bit larger than an apple seed. And they will be more on the rusty-brown side of the color spectrum. Only the youngest nymphs will be “white” or translucent, or blood-red if just fed.

Third,

Health officials said that bed bugs can be removed from clothing by putting them in the dryer for two cycles.

“Two cycles” is pretty vague and misses the important point about the temperature needed to kill bed bugs.

A very hot dryer (180 F) will kill bed bugs and eggs hidden inside a sock in 5 minutes, entomologist Dr. Michael Potter tells us. Other fabrics may take more time based on thickness or size, possibly much longer. But the dryer really must be hot. A cooler dryer (120 F) would take at least 1/2 hour or more once it reaches that temperature. I really don’t know what a standard US dryer heat is, nor how long a typical dryer cycle is. It is probably best to be as specific as possible under the circumstances.

Finally, when I hear stories like this, I want to know more about how school officials determined the bed bugs were coming from the child’s clothing or things.

Because if you simply found bed bugs on a child, they could also have crawled onto him from the immediate surroundings.

I really hope all the parents will learn about bed bugs and inspect their homes carefully. I also hope the family of this child will get help if their home is indeed infested, and that others will not treat them badly. Because even if he did bring bed bugs into school, it is not his fault.

Bed bugs can happen to anyone and should not be the source of shame. They are not caused by a lack of hygiene, but spread easily from one person to another. People who have them always, always caught them from someone else. It’s usually not really anyone’s fault.

Waterbury has apparently had lots of bed bug infestations.

And other schools have been dealing with this problem to varying degrees of success.

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1 parakeets October 24, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Great analysis, nobugs. I think your comments here are so on-targe they could even be written up into a one-page fact sheet of “We have bedbugs in our school? What should we do?” and handed out to schools. I’ve never seen anything like that and you’ve hit many major points. If nothing else, maybe it could be a FAQ here for parents who are alerted that their children’s school has reported a case of bedbugs. School administration don’t have the bedbug knowledge you/we have here, and pest control operators are geared to tell people how to prepare for a treatment, not how to deal with exposure to bedbugs. If people search on Google for “bedbugs in schools” I want them to find us.

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