By Marcia Anderson
We visited a local child care center and came back with a heartwarming story. This facility would occasionally find instances of head lice or bed bugs, but by keeping all personal items in individual cubbies, all bedding in separate plastic boxes with lids, and daily cleaning of the nap-time areas along with regular cot sanitization, there is little chance for bed bugs to find a home in this child care facility. The facility is a model for Integrated Pest Management (IPM): pest prevention through eliminating food, water and shelter that bed bugs and other pests thrive on and solid sanitation and maintenance practices.
So what was the problem?
The director told us about a three-year-old child who recently came to school every day with bite marks. The staff brought this to the attention of the director who recognized that they may be bedbug bites, based on a distinctive, linear bite pattern left on the child’s body. When she questioned the parents, they were reluctant to speak about where they lived and their living conditions, for fear of reprisals from their landlord or the authorities. The director monitored the child’s condition and noticed that the bites got progressively worse. She felt compelled to confront the parents again. When she did they told her of the horrific conditions in which they lived. The director soon observed, first hand, the dirt floors of the basement “apartment” that the family called home. The floor was covered in mouse and rat feces, and cockroaches were on the floors, all over the kitchenette. Cockroach feces were on the walls, in dishes and in food containers. Bedbugs were flourishing in the beds, clothing and upholstery, and in cracks and crevices throughout the “living” space. The family was being exploited by an unscrupulous landlord.
The director, co-workers and some caring people at City Hall helped the family relocate to a better living space. As all of the family’s belongings were contaminated with pests, feces and mold, they were discarded and replaced by the kind donations of families within the child care community.
Sometimes the young children of the poorest families in our society are the most vulnerable to the dangers of living in squalid conditions. Stories like this are unfortunately all too common, especially in our urban areas. Sometimes the best way to help these children is through their child care providers.
As sad as this story is, bedbugs do not distinguish between classes. Both poor and well-to do families can be equal victims when struck by bed bug infestations. People may not even realize that they have an infestation until bites become obvious and questioned, and quite often this may be by alert child care providers.
The child care providers at this center were prepared with quality literature on how to recognize bedbugs and potential bites in advance of this case, and they provided bi-lingual materials to all parents. Rutgers University, Cornell University, the New York City Department of Health, and the EPA all have quality materials on their bed bug websites. For more information on bed bugs visit http://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/.