MARSHFIELD – More cases of bedbugs have been identified in and around Marshfield after USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin first reported the growing problem Friday.
Since then, public health officials have received at least two more reports of infestations in the Marshfield area, including one in nearby Auburndale, according to Kate Carlson, an environmental health specialist with the Wood County Health Department.
That brings the total number of reported local bedbug cases to seven since November, although there likely are additional, unreported cases. Those who are infested often are reluctant to seek help.
“They’re just embarrassed and they don’t know what to do” because of a stigma attached to bedbugs, Carlson said.
While bedbug infestations can be exacerbated by clutter, bedbugs spread mostly by “hitchhiking” from place to place. People commonly get bedbugs from staying in hotels and buying used furniture. Bedbugs feed on blood and often leave red, itchy bite marks that can trigger allergic reactions, although they do not carry disease.
Anyone who finds bedbugs should contact the Wood County Health Department and seek help from a pest-control company.
More details also are coming to light about one of the cases involving a Marshfield school. According to Carlson, a staff member called the Health Department in December to report that siblings had bedbugs on them. At the time, the family had already been dealing with the bedbugs for a couple of weeks, Carlson said.
Those children were in an elementary school and they may have older siblings who live in the same household, Carlson said. She does not know which specific schools the children attend, except that they are part of the Marshfield School District.
The Health Department has advised schools to hire a pest control company if bedbug infestations are found; Carlson said she is not aware of any infestations reported in any schools to date.
Marshfield School District Superintendent Dee Wells said last week that she had not been aware of any recent reports of bedbugs in a school. The district’s guidelines for handling bedbugs call for notifying the school nurse, providing the affected student with literature on how to address bedbugs and sending a letter to the student’s parents. The guidelines also call for storing the student’s belongings in a plastic container at school and to discreetly inspect the student’s desk and locker for bedbugs.
Schools are discouraged from taking students affected by bedbugs out of the classroom.
“Sending the child home from school if they are known or suspected to have a bed bug infestation at home is futile,” the guidelines read. “Missed days have a negative impact on children and it can take many days to control a bed bug infestation.”
There have been no reports of bedbugs at Columbus Catholic Schools, according to its president, David Eaton.