Bed bugs - really helpful advice to share with travellers, plus a great video on completing Yelow Fever certificates.

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Welcome to the March edition of Travel Health Bulletin

This month we look at those all annoying bed bugs and how we can advise the traveller to be aware of their presence and prevent them during travel.

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius)


Bed bugs are around 4 – 6mm in length when fully grown and flat, oval in shape and are visible to the naked eye. Bed bugs live in cracks and crevices within walls and furniture such as bed frames and mattresses – hence their name!

Bed bugs are found worldwide and are significant problem for many travellers. They are often found in hostels but can also make their way to quality clean hotels and even make it onto planes! Recently it was reported that a British airways passenger plane was taken out of service after there was an outbreak of bedbugs on a flight from the US to London. Passengers claimed they were bitten and spotted eggs.

Bed bugs can easily be spread from guest house to hotel. Unknowingly travellers can easily transport bedbugs from one place to another in their clothing and bedding packed in their suitcase or backpack. They can also live for up to a year without feeding so can remain in their new found home quite comfortably for some time without a host to feed on so they are very difficult to get rid of.

Bed bugs mainly bite at night. It is the combination of body heat and carbon dioxide that attract these tiny bugs to bite exposed skin. They usually bite on the face, neck arms and hands and feed on blood whilst the person is sleeping. Bed bugs are not dangerous and not know to carry disease but some people develop itchy red bumps which can last several days. 

Tips that we can give travellers to manage and prevent bed bugs-

•    Sleep under an impregnated mosquito net
•    Sleep in your own sleeping bag liner or sheet preferably impregnated with insecticide.
•    Clean bedding in hot water and dry on the highest dry setting.
•    Plan where to stay, check reviews and recent complaints of bedbugs at hotels.
•    Be aware of a musty odour (from bugs scent glands) in the room. This may be a sign of a large infestation.
•    Store your suitcase or backpack on a stand far away from the bed
•    Look out for black spots on bedding; these will be blood spots from squashed bugs after feeding.
•    Bites from Bed bugs are often in straight lines as opposed to mosquito bites which are more random. This can help travellers identify what has caused their bites.
•    Pack any dirty clothes that may be infested in tight sealable bag.
•    A mild steroid cream such as hydrocortisone and some antihistamines can help manage to manage any itching. 

Useful Resources:


Yellow Fever – certificate guidance for health professionals

NathNac have produced a Youtube presentation on how to successfully complete a Yellow fever certificate.  This is great for nurses returning to practice or those new to travel medicine. Take a look:

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