Bed bugs in schools

Bed bugs can appear wherever there are people. Schools are no exception!

Bed bugs are known to show up in public places, as well as homes. Libraries, offices, hospitals and public transportation are just a few of the sites that can be plagued by bed bugs. Unfortunately, schools are no exception. With the start of a new school year comes the possibility of bed bugs in classrooms.

Michigan State University Extension points out that while bed bugs may show up in schools, the threat of an actual infestation is minimal. Bed bugs are not likely to take up residence in a school and reproduce. What will likely be seen are a few bed bugs that hitch a ride on a student’s clothing or in a backpack. They then may be carried home by another student. This can cause a school to become a potential hub for the spread of bed bugs.

If a bed bug is found on a student it may indicate that the student has bed bugs at home. However, it might also be that the bed bug crawled off of another student or out of his or her belongings.

If a bed bug is found on a student the following steps should be followed:

  • The student should be discreetly removed from the classroom so that his or her clothing and other belongings can be examined. This should be done by the school nurse or another qualified individual. Any bugs found should be collected for identification, keeping the specimens as intact as possible.
  • If the bug is positively identified as a bed bug, then the school principal or nurse should contact the student’s parents or guardian to inform them of the situation. Educational materials should be provided to the family. There are resources through the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) and MSU Extension.
  • A letter may be sent to the homes of the students in the affected classrooms.
  • Students should not be excluded from school due to bed bugs unless repeated efforts have been made to remedy an infestation. Schools should not be closed due to bed bug presence. If pest management is necessary it will normally be targeted to certain areas of the school.
  • Ongoing pest management that includes the use of pesticides indoors should be overseen by the school principal or destined individuals, and must conform to the school’s integrated pest management (IPM) plan, as required by Michigan law.

If bed bugs are found in a classroom, there are some steps that can be taken to keep them from spreading:

  • Backpacks, lunchboxes and other items that travel back and forth to school can be inspected daily. At home, these items should be sealed in plastic containers to prevent bed bugs from contaminating them.
  • Hard surfaces can be cleaned with standard cleaning products.
  • If bed bugs have been found repeatedly in a particular classroom, the room should be inspected by a pest management professional or other trained staff.

Untrained staff SHOULD NOT apply pesticides on school property. By law, only IPM-trained applicators can apply pesticides (even ready-to-use products like sprays) in schools. The applicators must follow the school’s IPM plan.

MSU Extension has partnered with MDCH to address the bed bug issue. For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit www.michigan.gov/bedbugs.

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