Pinworm, lice and now bedbugs beset schools. And teachers used to only worry about catching colds.

bedbugThey’re here. The bedbug scourge that has emptied hotels in the Midwest, crimped sales at second-hand stores in Manhattan and caused people in Cincinnati to sleep outside has reached a Georgia college campus. Many other campuses around the country have fought off invasions of the nasty apple-seed sized pests, including the University of Oklahoma and Indiana University.

According to the AJC, about 70 students at Reinhardt University in Cherokee County are sleeping in the gym as the school deals with an infestation of bedbugs found in two rooms in a dormitory. My own son attends college in Ohio, which has been called ground zero for infestations of the small, biting bugs that are apparently now fortified against many common repellents. An elementary school in Dayton had to close yesterday to exterminate bedbugs.

The bugs are so portable that they  travel to new locales into people’s luggage, pockets and  purses. There have been stories out of New York about people buying vintage clothing and going straight to the dry cleaners to ensure no bedbugs. And there are entire stores that have had to shut down due to the bugs, including the Niketown in Midtown Manhattan.

Many parents elsewhere are banning sleepovers because of the bedbug threat. I think bedbugs are going to make us yearn for lice, which typically only sends a few kids home rather than shuts down an entire school.

In my years as a parent, I have received notes of pinworms and lice infestations among students, but never bedbugs. That may be yet to come. By the way, are schools still sending kids home for lice? My understanding from the medical literature is that it is not really necessary or medically sound to make kids go home, and that lice does not pole vault from head to head as easily as once believed. Anyone know current policy?

The AJC story states:

The problem was confined to just two rooms, but we wanted to go ahead and treat the whole residence hall,” spokeswoman Marsha White told the AJC Thursday.

The bedbugs were discovered in Cobb Hall, an all-male, mostly freshman dormitory. Wednesday, exterminators began using high-end steamers and chemical treatments to eliminate the bedbugs.

“We vacuum up any we can find and heat the area, so if there are any egg casings still attached, it kills those,” said Chuck Tindol, owner of Allgood Pest Solutions. “It’s a three-day process at the minimum.”

46 comments Add your comment

What's Best for Kids?

September 23rd, 2010
11:19 am

Lice: a school in Washington has decided that the children’s self-esteem is way to fragile to send them home for lice.

David Sims

September 23rd, 2010
11:33 am

And you can’t get AIDS from a kiss, so they say. But why kiss a bunch of HIV infectees? There are viral infections that you can easily catch through contact with saliva. Rabies is one of them. So it might be barely possible to get infected with HIV that way, even if the chance is a small one.

Lice might not pole vault, but sometimes heads bump, infested bits of hair fall out and scatter on the breeze, etc.

Bruce Kendall

September 23rd, 2010
11:41 am

Thanks! I needed this, to help me through the day.

catlady

September 23rd, 2010
11:44 am

Only someone who does not have to deal with this would think there is no big deal. Watch them running around in kids’ hair, or get it yourself,and then get back to me.

catlady

September 23rd, 2010
11:45 am

Don’t forget about “the itch.” It’s horrifying also.

Maureen Downey

September 23rd, 2010
11:52 am

@catlady, I have dealt with head lice. The issue is whether there is science behind the school response.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

September 23rd, 2010
11:58 am

Folks, Just found this NYT head lice story from earlier this week saying the same thing I said: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/health/21brody.html?_r=1&ref=health:

According to the story:

Schools that check children for lice often rely on nurses and parents ill equipped to detect an active lice infestation. In one study of more than 600 samples of presumed lice or eggs submitted by teachers, parents, nurses and physicians, about two-thirds turned out to be dandruff, scabs, dirt, plugs of skin cells, hair spray droplets, other insects or eggs that were no longer viable or already hatched.

This study, by Richard J. Pollack and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health, concluded that “noninfested children become quarantined at least as often as infested children” and that treatments with louse-killing insecticides “are more frequently applied to noninfested children than to children who bear active infestations.”

In the words of the pediatrics academy, “a child should not be restricted from school attendance because of lice; no-nit policies should be abandoned.” And “routine classroom or schoolwide screening should be discouraged.”

Anyone can get head lice. They have no respect for social class, hygiene, hair length or frequency of brushing. They are most often transmitted by direct head-to-head contact, far less often by exposure to the clothing, hats, helmets, hair accessories, headphones or furnishings used by an infested person. Children are more often infested than adults, and whites more so than other groups.

While “it is probably impossible to prevent all head lice infestations,” the pediatrics report stated, “it is prudent for children to be taught not to share personal items such as combs, brushes and hats. However, no one should refuse to wear protective headgear because of fear of head lice.

Teacher

September 23rd, 2010
12:12 pm

Thankfully I have not had to deal with too many of these “buggy” issues over my nine years in the classroom. I have had a handful of students with head lice over the years, and they can usually return to school after one day of RID shampoo. It really is no big deal, and I have never encountered a situation where lice was widespread.

My issue is not with bugs, but with illness that can be prevented through vaccines. We recently had an issue with Whooping Cough and this is very scary. So many of our students are coming to school having had no vaccines, allowing preventable diseases to make their way back into our classrooms. It seems almost fashionable to not vaccinate your child these days. The whole autism issue has been completely debunked, so that leaves religious reasons. I have been coughing for over three weeks now and can’t seem to shake it. I think it’s time to tell parents: No vaccines? No school.

Maureen Downey

September 23rd, 2010
12:15 pm

@Teacher, I don’t know too many people who don’t vaccinate their kids. I wonder why you see more of it where you are.
Maureen

@teacher/maureen

September 23rd, 2010
12:35 pm

I agree with Teacher – the lack of vaccines is an epidemic waiting to happen. It is a common practice among the hispanics coming into the system to fill out the “objector” card, allowing them to take a pass. Maureen, you really need to step out of your comfortable middle class environment.

Maureen Downey

September 23rd, 2010
12:40 pm

@teacher/maureen, Actually, in my reporting on this as a news reporter, it was middle class parents leading the resistance to vaccines based on their concerns.
And as for my “comfortable middle class environment,” I am the first generation in my family to reach any level of “comfort,” so I am quite happy to stay here for a spell.
Maureen

Teacher

September 23rd, 2010
12:44 pm

Maureen,

I work in a very diverse school in Cobb County. Many people cite religious reasons and they simply need to fill out a form. I know it’s a problem because when I had my son four years ago our pediatrican flat out told us that if we don’t plan to vaccinate, we needed to find another doctor. I didn’t realize how common it was to not vaccinate, but the office said it was a growing trend.

I went to the doctor about the cough last week. I told him about the Whooping Cough and he was enraged because it really should not be an issue at all in schools. I don’t know if you saw it but the state of California is also experiencing widespread Whooping Cough. Two years ago a teacher friend of mine caught it while she was 8 months pregnant. Her baby was in the NICU for several weeks as a result. Yes, it’s a problem.

zoe

September 23rd, 2010
12:47 pm

I worked at a summer camp, we did lice checks before anyone could actually register and stay. If we found a kid with lice, the parent could either take the kid home OR we had a lice station that we used just for delousing and washing all clothes before the kid was allowed to attend camp. I because an expert at identifying lice. The one time we didn’t do head checks when the kids came to camp was the one time we had an outbreak.

I think a no nits policy is appropriate, otherwise the infected kids will reinfect other kids. I actually check my daughter daily and I would NEVER knowingly send my kid to school with lice, that is unfair to the other parents and students at my daughter’s school. Lice runs through a family very fast once one person is infected. If need be, I’d use the delousing salon the AJC did an article about a few weeks ago. Although if my daughter caught lice a second time because the school allowed students to attend school without being completely nit free, you can be sure I’d be asking the school or the parent of the child to foot the bill for a repeat treatment.

Roy Barnes Lipstick

September 23rd, 2010
1:02 pm

The bedbug problem is due to mexicans that wont take a bath.

catlady

September 23rd, 2010
1:46 pm

I beg to differ. Lice can spread pretty quickly through a room, and they can be very hard to get rid of. I support a no-nit policy, as well as denying school registration to those whose shots are not up to date. If you don’t want to vaccinate your child, that is your business. Just don’t expect them to be publicly schooled. Kids with scabies (the itch) should also be excluded until it is under control.

Also had a kid (board member’s daughter) who called me, screaming, into the bathroom. She had passed a 12 inch tapeworm. Mom had given her “worm medicine” that morning! Not one of my favorite memories.

Amanda

September 23rd, 2010
1:56 pm

@Maureen – I just had a baby 4 months ago and I do vaccinate. My next door neighbor, however, does not. I am constantly told by her about the “poisons” I am injecting into my child and how horrible it is.

seabeau

September 23rd, 2010
2:02 pm

Head lice and bedbugs are a result of diversity. They are a relativly recent event in most public schools . They did not exist in the schools I attended forty years ago.

Teacher

September 23rd, 2010
2:03 pm

It doesn’t really matter who isn’t vaccinating. The point is that there are children coming to school who are at risk for preventable illness and others are getting sick as a result. Out of the seven weeks we have been back in school, I have had a cold/cough for four of those weeks. People who believe teaching is an easy job should take note of that. I teach first grade, by the way.

Catlady: Yes, lice can spread quickly. But the fact remains that I just haven’t seen a single outbreak in nine years. Given the choice between lice and the Whooping Cough we have going around, I’ll take the lice.

Teacher

September 23rd, 2010
2:14 pm

And no, head lice is not a result of diversity. Lice has been around for as long as children have been attending school. It is also not a result of being unclean or poor. Any child of any ethnicity or household income can get lice. I had it in fourth grade and it really is an easy problem to solve. To suggest otherwise is to show a lack of knowledge about the issue. We have MUCH larger problems facing us in schools.

teacher&mom

September 23rd, 2010
2:17 pm

@seabeau…Head lice and bedbugs are not a recent phenomena. I remember listening to my grandmother talk about watching the head lice crawl up and down the hair of the young lady who sat in front of her in elementary school. This would have been in the 1920’s when my grandmother attended a small one-room schoolhouse.

teacher&mom

September 23rd, 2010
2:19 pm

OK, now my head is itching uncontrollably :P

East Cobb Parent

September 23rd, 2010
2:44 pm

I had to laugh at teacher&mom comment, my son’s class had several cases of lice when he was in K. I immediately shaved his head – our daughter had long, long hair – and sent him to school with a large zipplock bag as a backpack. All of this is making my head itch as well.

I do have to say the vaccine thing is becoming quite the issue. I have quite a few neighbors that do not vaccinate their children. I find it very scary, but it is their choice. Our pediatrician not only will not accept your if you elect to not vaccinate, he tells parents when their kids are overweight or obese. Only came up because I asked how my “thin” children could be in the 70% for weight.

Perhaps we can designate schools as those for the vaccinated and those for those that elect to not vaccinate.

Anonymous Teacher

September 23rd, 2010
3:27 pm

@ Teacher Coughing for 3 weeks does not automatically mean whooping cough. I’ve been practically coughing up a lung for 3 weeks due to seasonal allergies. I was out for one day as I could barely speak for coughing so badly (couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment), then got called into the principal’s office the next day to be “counseled on my attendance.”

Hocky puck. I have over 650 accumulated sick leave hours. There is nothing wrong with my attendance.

So, instead of going to the doctor like normal people would, I’ve been coughing up a storm. Can’t stay out for a doctor’s appointment or I’ll be counseled again.

November

September 23rd, 2010
3:56 pm

Maureen, this is just a great comeback……I don’t agree with you on a lot of issues, but this is great….

And as for my “comfortable middle class environment,” I am the first generation in my family to reach any level of “comfort,” so I am quite happy to stay here for a spell.
Maureen

MS Man

September 23rd, 2010
4:58 pm

I have been at the same school for 10 years and haven’t seen an outbreak of lice and we have rich, poor, black, brown, and white students. We do, however, require immunizations be current and updated. The “objector” process is pretty rigorous and slightly beyond just signing a paper. I know our school withdraws kids who don’t have current immunizations and our student record gets audited by the health department annually to ensure no students with incomplete immunizations are at school.

ChristieS.

September 23rd, 2010
5:07 pm

It wouldn’t take much for a lice infestation to run rampant through the schools where I live. The Read180 and Aleks Math Direct Instruction programs are in every classroom and every student is required to use them…at shared computers with shared sets of headphones.

ChristieS.

September 23rd, 2010
5:09 pm

btw, I meant to mention this earlier, Maureen. I like the new banner.

KAW

September 23rd, 2010
5:09 pm

@East Cobb Parent don’t understand what the weight/obese issue has to do with vaccinations. When the Dr. checks your child’s height and weight and tells you their percentile, it has nothing to do with how many patients at the Dr. office. They chart it according national averages.

catlady

September 23rd, 2010
5:47 pm

Teachers are also exposed to Hep A, B, C and are encouraged to get shots.

I have seen dozens of cases of lice, dozens of cases of scabies in this community over the 38 years I have taught.

But the new stuff, like not vaccinating your kids, like them being carriers of Hep or TB, are really scary.

NCLB doesn’t help when it puts attendance as a measure of effectiveness. Too many parents dose their kids with tylenol and unleash them on the others at their school.

Dekalbite

September 23rd, 2010
7:41 pm

This has been going on for a long time. I got scabies in 1976 from a student. Not a pleasant experience. My daughter got head lice in the late 1980s (at one of the more affluent schools in DeKalb). Her Kindergarten class had 31 students – too many to take a nap on pallets so they laid their heads on the tables next to each other – often touching. She stayed home until she was nit free – I learned what “nit picking” was as I spent hours with a “nit” comb in addition to that lice shampoo.

In the 1980s, I taught at a low income school in DeKalb where quite a few of my 4th graders were not vaccinated. When I complained to the principal, he said the students’ parents told him they had no money for vaccination, and the public health department had 2 and 3 months waiting lists. I told him that wasn’t safe for the other students, but he said he didn’t think anyone would get sick. We’d take the risk. Some of the kids transferred out (very transient school) without ever getting vaccinated.

Actually, the TB scares me more than anything. DeKalb is very diverse, and TB is endemic in Europe and Asia – thus every year we hear of some school with a TB outbreak. Teachers and students are tested and the active cases are uncovered. Scary stuff with the antibiotic resistant TB cases in the U.S.

I can understand why teachers have so many sick days. Put any adult into a room with 30+ kids (or 150+ in high school) and you’d get sick a lot too. I’ve seen principals tell teachers who are sick they have to come to school to teach. That’s sick to me – who wants what they have? I had a principal tell me I had to make up a snow day after school for 4 days or on a Saturday when I had a doctor’s letter saying I could not work any overtime due to a life threatening illness my child had recently been diagnosed with. I told the principal to go talk to her boss or to the superintendent, but I wouldn’t be working one minute overtime. My job was 1 on a scale of 100 compared to my family’s health. I was lucky. I could live without the job. Many teachers can’t.

I’ve seen parents send children to school with temperatures and throwing up, and when you call them, they say they can’t come pick up their child because they can’t miss work or they might be fired. I just told the kids to put their heads down and try to get through the day. You can’t very well put them out of the class, and they are your kids after all. I taught with an eye to how they were feeling. I’ve also cleaned up my share of vomit in classrooms. It happens when children are sick.

I don’t know the answers. I just know schools are not in the health business, and having sick and infected (lice or scabies or TB or flu, etc.) teachers and students in class are not the answer. People need to understand the word communicable in communicable diseases.

Fred

September 24th, 2010
12:02 am

Dekalbite: That was a very nice post. If I sent my child to public schools, I would want her to have a teacher like you.

Maureen: I echo “November.” That was a great comeback. Kudo’s.

East Cobb Parent

September 24th, 2010
7:15 am

at KAW – yes I understand how the weight/height charts work, the reason the comment was to show the Dr. is not afraid to address sensitive issues and take a stand. Lice may not be harmful, just a pest, but I don’t want my child coming home with them. And I want the child sitting next to mine to have received their vaccinations.

Lee

September 24th, 2010
7:39 am

What did you expect? When you have hundreds of thousands of third world invaders walking across our southern border each year, they bring with them third world diseases and infestations.

http://www.usillegalaliens.com/impacts_of_illegal_immigration_diseases.html

But, it’s not politically correct to discuss such issues, so therefore, nothing will be done.

ChristieS.

September 24th, 2010
8:42 am

Lee, the “invaders” didn’t bring these health issues to our shores. They’ve been here forever.

Joe

September 24th, 2010
10:45 am

Teacher, Have you yourself been vaccinated against whooping cough with the booster you’re suppose to get? Kids have been vaccinated 5 times for this in their first 4 years of life. It’s the adults who are speading it. If you’re worried about disease you should get yourself all 40 some vaccines that they now reccomend. Tell your “enraged” pediatrician to do the same thing.

Dr. Tim

September 24th, 2010
11:44 am

More proof that we are becoming a Third World nation. Give this another twenty years and then take a look. Scary.

Lee

September 24th, 2010
12:15 pm

@Christie, that’s the point. These diseases have been here for years and were eradicated. Only in the past 10-20 years have we seen an upsurge in the number of cases due in a large part to illigal aliens who do not get health screened.

“According to Steve Pfeifer, head of statistics and epidemiology at the National Hansen’s Disease Program, only about two dozen new cases are found each year in U.S.-born patients, with that number remaining stable for decades.

But Pfeifer suggests many aliens are coming to the U.S. specifically to get treated for their skin condition, due to the short time between many immigrants’ entry to the U.S. and their diagnosis with leprosy.

“They’re coming to be treated because they get treatment free and probably get better treatment here,” he told Columbia. “Somebody down there diagnoses them and says, ‘Hey, you’ve got leprosy, and your best course of action is probably high-tailing to the U.S.’”

The fear is that since the disease remains contagious until treatment is commenced, a surge of diagnosed-but-untreated patients could mean a spread of leprosy into the population of those born in America.

Pfeifer said he had not issued an official report on the dangerous trend, fearing that anti-immigration groups would become vocal against centers providing free health care for illegals.

“A lot of our cases are imported,” said Dr. Terry Williams, who treats leprosy victims in Houston. “We see patients from everywhere – Africa, the Philippines, China, South America.”

Lynn2

September 24th, 2010
12:33 pm

I have major issues with parents who choose not to vaccinate. You are relying on the herd immunity of everyone else to protect your child. If your child becomes sick with whooping cough or another disease and expose an infant who hasn’t had all of teh necessary shots.

I witnesses whooping cough jump through a baseball team. The sister who taught in South Korea came home for a visit with whooping cough. This family did not believe in vaccinations. It spread through the children and then on to the children of another family who also did not believe in vaccinating. The end result was a week in the hospital for the five year old of the second family.

If you don’t want to vaccinate, then isolate. Make sure your children only associate with other children who don’t vaccinate.

Teacher

September 24th, 2010
1:08 pm

As a matter of fact Joe, I have been vaccinated. And no, it wasn’t adults in our building with Whooping Cough. Children are spreading it. I’m just raising the issue that there are a growing number of students who don’t get vaccinated. Some parents cannot shake the link between vaccines and autism, even though no link has been found. Others claim religious reasons. At any rate, Whooping Cough shouldn’t be in a school. Period. Joe, I’m afraid you have missed the entire point of many of these comments.

Lynn, you raise some very good points about this issue. The victims of preventable disease are often very young children who have not yet been vaccinated. I mentioned a teacher friend of mine whose baby spent weeks in the NICU over Whooping Cough.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sherry Sabine, Robin Corpuz, Timothy Haffey, Sherry Sabine, kidstrongbooks and others. kidstrongbooks said: Pinworm, lice and now bedbugs beset schools. And teachers used to only worry …: Lice: a school in Washington has… http://bit.ly/9GRGyt [...]

Booklover

September 24th, 2010
3:09 pm

I’m curious as to why everyone thinks infestations of lice are a new thing?

In the part of the midwest where I grew up, it’s SOP to do a school-wide lice check about twice a year, or whenever there is an outbreak. (It’s always been this way, even when my grandma was in school in the 40s) The district I attended was upper-middle class and about 92% white… actually, my understanding is that white people are much more prone to lice because of the texture of our hair. Outbreaks certainly seem more common up there. Many of my teacher friends there deal with getting lice from students at least once a year.

As far as sick kids, I’m understanding about parents having to send their kids to school because they can’t take any more sick days, or they don’t get paid days. To me, this is the greatest argument for both health care reform and labor reform. I’ve been sick twice this year already–the worst year yet! Student attendance due to illness also seems to be worse this year than in previous years.

Ros Dalton

September 25th, 2010
5:29 pm

Re: lice, they’re a gross but very minor problem. Add a little tea tree oil to your laundry to prevent clothing infestations and teach your kid that hair is off limits to hands, both ways, and you’ll probably miss it.

In California there are over 100 schools with a Whooping Cough vaccination rate of under 50%:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39220447/ns/health-infectious_diseases

The whooping cough vax has been especially victimized by the autism panic because it has a relatively high complication rate and was so nearly eliminated from our school age population that the infection/transmission rate was comparably low, so if you took a single year early in the decade and looked solely at the complication vs transmission rate risk there was the appearance of a rational trade off. Unfortunately Whooping Cough rarely effects older children or adults in such a way that they’re willing to seek out a booster shot, so the disease presists despite being rare in young children, therefore looking at a single year is like pulling a Saturday traffic report and assuming your Monday morning commute will be comparable.

So we have a sudden decline in the vaccination rate over a 10 year period, a disease that persists in large numbers of our population and is easily transmitted, and a stubborn unwillingness to readopt the vaccine even in the face of overwhelming research. The result is kids dying and suffering needlessly… and I say that as an adult who had bouts with whooping cough when I was young and debated the necessity of the vaccine as a parent.

I have a 3 month old at home right now. Despite the fact that Georgia isn’t doing as badly as Cali on the vax front Whooping Cough scares me far, far more than lice, pinworms, or bed bugs.

Cindy Williams

September 25th, 2010
10:47 pm

a look out. they are everywhere. Make sure you are prepared. http://www.bedbugdetection.com

MS Teacher

September 26th, 2010
9:29 am

The issue is not race (diversity), but poverty/ cleanliness. As a middle school teacher, lice has not been an issue at my school, but my nieces and nephews have gotten lice from classmates. The vaccine issue is a problem for teachers who teach in schools with more Hispanics. Many do not have money for the vaccines and are not required to be vaccinated in their home country. I am in my first trimester and am concerned about what I may be exposed to. There needs to be stricter standards to protect other children and the families of teachers.

sandy

September 29th, 2010
12:58 pm

what is going on in our country?, this bed bug epidemic is totally out of control, this country had it under control for many many years, and now its back, and with a revenge, i hear the stuff they used years ago has been banned, because of risk of causing cancer?, well, everywhere i turn today, i hear of someone havng cancer, i think if certain precautions are taken, we can use that stuff once again, in a safer manner, if we dont do something fast, america will be taken over by bugs!, its happening now, the government gets involved in every aspect of our life’s today, why are they not doing anything about this epidemic?

227teacher

September 29th, 2010
9:12 pm

Well sandy, they stopped using DDT not only because it may cause cancer but because it kills many animals and birds. Besides would you rather have cancer or lice? Check this link out and you will understand…hopefully… http://www.edf.org/article.cfm?ContentID=4407