CIRCLEVILLE - Parents are advised to be alert to signs of bed bugs after several were recently discovered at Circleville High School.
A single bed bug was found at the school on three separate occasions since Jan. 16, according to Jonathan Davis, superintendent of Circleville City Schools.
"The first report was via a student the week of Jan. 16th," Davis said. "Another similar report came the week of the 23rd, then a bug was found on the floor [Wednesday]."
District officials believe the discoveries are isolated incidents of the bugs being carried into the building on clothing or belongings and not a result of any infestation at the school.
Davis said employees of the pest control company hired by the district and the Pickaway County General Health District inspected the building Feb. 1 and again Thursday, and both inspections resulted in clean reports.
"They have not found any live or dead bugs during their inspections and treatment," Davis said.
Kelly Dennis, director of environmental services at the Pickaway County General Health District, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Davis said a letter was sent home to parents after the third incident Wednesday addressing questions about the district's protocol for dealing with incidents of bed bugs. In it, Davis details the steps taken when the bed bugs were discovered at the high school.
"The administration is notified by staff or students of a sighting, and we take proper care to remove the student from the setting, as well as their belongings, and notify parents," the letter reads. "Parents are required to come and pick up the student, as well as the belongings."
Additionally, he wrote, "the district then treats the area in which the bug was spotted, as well as any other space the student or the student's belongings would have been."
Davis said the entire high school building was treated on Jan. 28, and the district worked with the health department to perform a walk-through on Feb. 1, in addition to a second walk-through completed Thursday.
"In each walk-through, with the pest control company and the health department, there were no signs of bed bugs at CHS," Davis wrote.
Davis said Thursday he and the health department are confident the protocols put in place are proper, and that bed bugs do not reside in the Circleville City School buildings.
Superintendents Tim Williams of Logan Elm Local Schools and Robin Halley of Teays Valley Local Schools both said they were unaware of any incidents with bed bugs in their respective districts.
"If faced with the situation, we would work closely with the health department to ensure a safe environment for our students and their families," Williams said.
Halley said Teays Valley has dealt with situations involving head lice and recently pertussis (whooping cough), and any incidents of bed bugs would be handled through the same protocols.
"Usually when anything happens like that, we do have some policies in place," Halley said. "We sit down with our nurses, and we inform the parents. Usually our nurses run point on that to get the word out to parents with recommendations on what to do. I think the way we operate right now is pretty effective."
Cara Riddel, superintendent of the Westfall Local School District, said she can appreciate the current situation at Circleville City Schools because Westfall has dealt with bed bug issues in the past.
"I can tell you we've had a couple of cases each year at least for the past three years," Riddel said. "Honestly, we have a bigger problem with lice, because you have a lot more people affected by that, and lice gets spread a little more quickly."
Riddel said in response to those incidents, Westfall actually has its bed bug protocol on its website as a resource for parents and staff.
"If you find a bed bug, you put it in a bag so it can be inspected," Riddel said. "You don't touch it or anything, but you use a piece of tape or something to pick it up so we can identify it. It's important not to damage the bug."
Riddel said the district also has a special heating apparatus that can provide a heat treatment for an affected child's clothing that will kill any existing bugs on site.
"We also have a company that helps us with the right types of sprays," she said. "We vacuum and spray the building every night."
Riddel said bed bugs are considered a nuisance by the health department and not an actual health threat, so education and vigilance is the best defense.
"You have things like fleas, lice and bed bugs that are persistent, hard to see and difficult to get rid of," she said. "When people hear about bed bugs, though, they're alarmed, probably more alarmed than if they found out about fleas or lice. They certainly don't want to get bitten by them or have them in their child's stuff, but I think because it's so expensive to treat, people are a little more alarmed by it."
The Ohio Department of Health provides information on identification, prevention and treatment of bed bugs on its website at www.odh.ohio.gov.