Subjecting bed bugs to almost 4 months of Starvation and spraying them with insecticides were still not enough to subdue this resilient pest in the Ghanaian Senior High Schools (SHSs).
Bed bugs have been a nuisance pest of students in the SHSs since it came on the News at the early part of 2016.
The growing and concormitant Increased in infestation levels at the disadvantaged communites in Ghana could be seen as the primary cause of the emergence and increased infestation levels in schools.
Bed bug infestations in schools exposes students to increasing health risks.
However, Many Ghanaians thought and expected bed bugs to completely disappeared from SHSs dormitories due to the several months of lockdown of all SHSs and the millions of Ghana Cedis spent by the Government on mass disinfestation in the schools following the outbreak of COVID-19.
Many Private Pest Control Operators(PPCO) felt threantened as their services may no longer be needed, even though bed bug infestation is suppose to be considered a public health threat, but a lucrative businesses for most of these exterminators in the country.
On the contrary, few individuals within the cycle of Medical Entomology knew bed bugs can withstand starvation for long and wait patiently for the students to come back.
During my Mphil studies on bed bugs at the University of Cape Coast, I observed in the laboratory that, freshly emerged ‘baby’ bed bugs( first stage nymphs) can survive for over one month without feeding.
Several studies in the laboratory outside Ghana have also shown that bed bugs can withstand starvation for over 3 months.
A publication by WHO revealed that, bed bugs can survive over a year without feeding.
However, field evidences on bed bugs tolerance to starvation currently are rare and our understanding on whether bed bugs are vulnerable to insecticides during starvation regimes has not been clearly justified.
On monday morning, I visited two SHS in the Volta Region where spraying was done during lockdown. The visit was done earlier before students arrival.
Inspections were conducted in 3 and 1 room respectively from the two schools.
Amazingly, Nymph bed bugs(first instars commonly and fourth stage instar) were found present in the dormitories of the two schools visited.
This is an indication of mass bed bug control failure in the schools as it is often believed by the general public that, re-infestations of the bugs after disinfestation sessions are commonly due to the re-introduction of the insects from homes to schools.
The finding from this inspection suggest major implications for insecticide control practices, a possible re-emergence of the pest in the Schools and bed bugs likely to become a worry and major biting nuisance to students again despite, the effort to eradicate them.
I will like to recommend bed bug monitoring in the schools and frequent inspections few days after control programmes to warrant further actions for appropriate decision and management of the insect.
Writer: Godwin Deku
Medical Entomologist (Final year Mphil(Entomology) Candidate-University of Cape Coast)
-Health Tutor-Accra School of Hygiene