Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Fleas force

Feral cats nearby create
health issues for the
Manoa center

By Lisa Asato

Fleas from feral cats have forced a Manoa preschool to shut down, leaving the parents of 84 youngsters scrambling for child care.

The University of Hawaii Manoa Children's Center was first shut down Thursday and Friday after fleas were noticed in the playground last Wednesday. After a weekend fumigation, the center reopened Monday, but was ordered closed again yesterday by its acting director, Jackie Dudock.

"The playgrounds were not usable and there were random fleas still in the classroom," Dudock said.

She said the health and safety of the children are her main concern. She said many children had a couple of bites, others had a few more.

"The smaller children who sleep on the floor had them all over their body," she said.

Farouk Wang, director of the UH department that handles pest control, said his staff on Friday will fumigate the five classrooms, one office and two playgrounds.

"If it fails again, we'll probably end up calling an external contractor," he said.

The center, across from UH, is primarily for the 2- to 4-year-old children of UH students, faculty and staff. Dudock said the infestation hasn't affected other tenants of Castle Memorial Hall, namely the UH elementary lab school and offices of the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii.

Although insecticides are generally considered to be safe for human exposure after 48 hours, custodians cleaned and wiped down desk tops, play areas and surface areas for the children and teachers who returned Monday.

"Because it's involving young children, we want to be extra careful," Wang said.

He said staff members are using a fogger called Pro-Control, which is sold in stores.

Wang said his staff is also attempting to catch an estimated 12 feral cats and turn them over to the Hawaiian Humane Society.

"We've already trapped two, and a kitten was picked up by a neighbor and taken to the Humane Society, too," he said.

He was not able to estimate how much the treatment would cost, but added that the university will pay for fumigation and catching the cats.

Georgia Acevedo, a teacher in charge of 2-year-olds, said parents have been resourceful, pooling child care services. Some parents are even hiring the center's student assistants she said.

"They're really rallying. It's hard, but everybody's doing the best they can," she said.

Dudock, meanwhile, said parents will be credited for days that the center is shut down.

The center plans to reopen Monday.

She said the fumigation had to be done in cycles to kill unhatched fleas.

She added: "I'm pretty confident they can take care of it. The main thing of course is making sure the cats are gone."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin