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Bedbugs in your classroom?

What you should do if you spot the little critters


A bedbug epidemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in New York in many years is now sweeping across the city, leaving a path of itchiness in its wake.

The irritating critters have surfaced anywhere from individual homes to high-end department stores like Bloomingdale’s. It seems like there isn’t a bug-free spot in the city — and schools are no exception.

According to Department of Education records, there were 1,019 confirmed cases of bedbugs in the 2009-2010 school year, an 88 percent increase over the 2008-2009 school year.

While schools are not conducive for bedbug infestations — the bugs feed on sleeping humans and so prefer to set up shop in residences — they can hitchhike through school buildings, brought in each day by students and adults who have bedbugs at home.

Educators should be aware of what to do if they encounter bedbugs at their school.

Know your bug. If you know what you are looking for, bedbugs are easy to spot. Unfortunately, they are not easily identified because they can be confused with other bugs. Adult bedbugs have flat, rusty-red-colored oval bodies, about the size of an apple seed. They are big enough to be easily seen, but often hide in cracks in furniture, floors or walls. When they feed, their bodies swell and become brighter red.

Know your bite. As with mosquitoes, a bedbug’s bite is almost painless. The saliva injected usually produces an inflammatory reaction, but the inflammation may not appear until a day or two later. Not everybody reacts to bedbug bites. While bedbugs do not carry or transmit infectious diseases, their bites can result in allergic reactions and secondary infections.

Tell your principal. If you suspect that you have found bedbugs in your classroom or on one of your students, inform your principal immediately. He or she should have a specimen collection kit that can be used to send a dead bug to the DOE’s Pest Management Unit for confirmation. Schools should follow the Department of Education’s protocols.

Tell the union. You should also notify the union’s Safety and Health Department at 212-598-9287.

It is not currently DOE policy to close schools with bedbugs or to send home students on whom bedbugs are found. If the DOE confirms that there are indeed bedbugs in your school, it will arrange for the area in which the bugs were found to be treated by its Integrated Pest Management Unit. (Unfortunately, pest control services can’t prevent bedbugs from being transported into the building.)

Your principal is also required by law to notify parents of the bugs’ presence; the parents of any child on whom a bedbug is found should be contacted directly.

More information is available on the bedbugs page in our Safety & Health section.

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