Pelion, SC (Paul Kirby) – Pelion Elementary School’s administration distributed a letter to parents this weekend in an attempt to stop rumors of a bedbug infestation at the school. In the letter from principal Debbie Poole sent to students’ parents, she wanted to address rumors and misinformation that were being spread about the severity of the problem.
In her letter, Poole says that bedbugs had been located at the school but stated, “There is no bedbugs infestation at our school.” She informed the parents that the school has gone, “More than a week with no bedbugs sightings.” An online dictionary defines infestation as the presence of an unusually large number of insects or animals in a place, typically so as to cause damage or disease. Poole reminded everyone in her letter that bedbugs, “Do not spread disease.” The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control does not have bedbugs on its list of health problems and issues that require a school to send a student home.
Principal Poole said that at the beginning of the 2019/20 school year, a total of six bedbugs were located on student’s belongings on the floor of a classroom at PES. As soon as those were located, the student’s parents were notified, and the school implemented the district’s bedbug protocol. Poole explained that at the beginning of each school day, students come in the classrooms and place their personal belongings into large plastic bags that are then sealed. These bags are provided by the school. At the end of the day, the students take their personal belongings out of the bags and return to their homes as normal.
Some parents are saying that District One hasn’t gone far enough to halt the spread of the tough little insects. One mother said her fears are that bedbugs will hitch a ride to school on a student’s personal belongings. They could then spread to other children’s personal effects and be taken home. The parent said that a representative of the District told her last week that the school had been treated. She said she contacted the District a second time, and that employee told her that treatments haven’t happened yet. “Treating bedbugs is really hard,” she said during a recent telephone interview. “It’s also real expensive. If one of these kids gets bedbugs on them at the school and then takes them home, it could cause their family $2,000 to $3,000 to get rid of them. Most people here just don’t have that kind of money!”
Principal Poole explained in her letter that the District had contracted with a licensed exterminator to inspect the school’s classrooms and common areas for the bug. This type of inspection is usually the first step in fighting bedbugs. The school also removed pillows and other textile covered items that bedbugs prefer to live or hide on. Even though no other bugs have been located, the District had the exterminator treat the affected classrooms as a precaution. The school is still following the bagging of personal belongings protocol as a precaution.
Bedbugs, a small, flat, reddish brown insect that often feed on humans and other warm-blooded animals, are extremely difficult to kill. Their eggs can lay dormant for long periods before they hatch. After World War II, the bugs were almost eradicated in the United States using the potent insecticide DDT. Later, the government determined that the DDT was hazardous to people who are exposed to it. Government regulators outlawed the use of DDT and have continued to outlaw most sprays and chemicals that are effective against the bugs. As time passed, these chemicals have gotten increasingly less effective causing the bedbugs comeback.
There are some chemicals that can kill bedbugs however, the most common and effective way of eradicating them is to use a mixture of chemicals and high heat. Bedbugs cannot live in high temperature environments. According to the website Terminix.com, lethal temperatures for bed bugs range from 117 degrees Fahrenheit to 122 F. You must hold areas being treated at or above those temperatures for an extended period before the bugs are all killed. Experts advise it’s best to leave heat treatments to them. It is dangerous to heat and hold a home or building’s interior at the necessary temperatures. If heat treatments aren’t monitored properly, a fire could occur.
At the end of her letter, principal Poole said the school and the District are doing everything they can to protect the children and their personal belongings. “I hope this clears up any misinformation or misunderstanding about this issue,” Poole concluded. She asked that any parent who has a question about this to contact her at the school.