No one wants to imagine being sick or injured on vacation; but if the worst happens, it pays (literally) to be prepared. Medical travel insurance can save you considerable hassle, time and money, and offer you peace of mind if you encounter health problems while traveling. But it’s also somewhat separate from most standard forms of travel insurance. While most common—and commonly needed—travel insurance is trip-cancellation (TCI) protection, you should certainly consider medical risks when you’re looking at your travel insurance options, up to and including emergency medical evacuation (also called “medevac”) assistance.
Who Needs Travel Medical Insurance?
The quick answer to that question is: Anyone who isn’t covered by their regular medical insurance when they’re traveling. More specifically, that means:
- Anyone whose regular health insurance/HMO doesn’t pay for services outside the U.S. There was a time when most private health insurance—and most HMOs—covered you (and emergency medevac assistance) wherever you went, but that’s no longer the case. With relentless cutbacks in benefits in recent years, many standard health insurance programs will no longer cover medical bills in foreign countries. And most do not cover medevac.
- Any senior dependent on Medicare. Medicare will not pay for anything outside the U.S. Even if you have a Medicare supplement that nominally covers foreign travel, benefits are so meager that you might need additional insurance.
Everyone should check their health insurance and travel insurance’s overseas medical benefits before leaving the country for a trip. If coverage is either slim or nonexistent, you likely need travel medical insurance.
It’s also worth noting that the medical benefits in many travel insurance policies are secondary, which means the insurance pays only for what you can’t claim from your regular health insurer/HMO. On the off chance that you already have good foreign-country coverage, additional travel insurance is probably a waste of money.
Bundled Medical Coverage
Almost all travel insurance bundles include a combination of TCI and medical benefits. For example, for a two-week trip to Europe the least expensive bundled policy might be a few hundred dollars (total) for two people. This usually covers a few thousand dollars in TCI plus somewhere around $50,000 in medical/dental emergency costs per person, and $50,000 in medical evacuation expenses per person. That’s about the minimum coverage: If you think you need more, you could buy a policy providing TCI plus $100,000 in medical emergency and $500,000 medevac per person for slightly more money.
But if you don’t want the TCI, you can buy just the medical coverage, and adjust according to your needs. On a sample trip I tested, I could buy greatly reduced coverage ($5,000 medical, $25,000 medevac) for about $100 total. Or, conversely, I could pay $195 for $100,000 in medical coverage, per person, plus unlimited medevac costs.
For travel to developed countries, my opinion is that $50,000 in medical and $50,000 medevac would more than cover any foreseeable risks. Travel to less developed areas, however, might call for slightly higher limits. It’s ultimately your call.
Yearly Medical and Medevac Coverage
If you travel a lot, you might consider buying medical/medevac insurance by the year (or per six months) rather than per trip. A low-benefit policy for frequent travelers offering about $10,000 in medical and $25,000 in medevac on each trip can cost about $100 per year (for one person). A more generous travel medical insurance policy covering $100,000 medical and unlimited medevac per trip costs about double that for one year (for one person). These policies are designed for travelers who make several short trips each year; policies for long-term overseas trips or extended business assignments might be priced differently.
Medevac: The Fine Print
Most medevac policies I’ve seen call for transport to either the nearest appropriate medical facility or back to the U.S., depending on the circumstances. Typically, that means you start at a local or regional hospital. The insurance pays for transport back to the U.S. only when, in the opinion of the attending physician, local/regional facilities are inadequate.
When you need medevac, the insurance company calls all the shots. That means you must, from the beginning, make all arrangements through the insurance company or its local agents. If you jump the gun and make your own arrangements, chances are the insurance company won’t cover them.
Can Your Credit Card Help?
Several premium credit cards provide lesser travel medical insurance in an emergency in a foreign country. Although the language in the card literature might seem to promise a lot, what you typically get is a referral to file claims, and not any genuine assistance.
The fine print for the AmEx Platinum card, for example, says, “Whenever you travel, have peace of mind knowing that you have 24/7 medical, legal, financial, and other emergency assistance while traveling more than 100 miles from home. We can direct you to English-speaking medical and legal professionals and arrange for a transfer to a more appropriate medical facility, even if an air ambulance is required.” Note that it says “arrange for,” not “pay for.” What you get is help in making arrangements; the cost of those arrangements goes right on your credit card bill, unless moving you is deemed “medically necessary.” As far as I know, most other cards operate the same way.
How to Choose Travel Medical Insurance
The medical risks you face when traveling outside the U.S. are hard to quantify. Basically, the chances of facing a major medical problem are small—very small, for medevac—but the financial consequences of a serious event are potentially quite large.
Fortunately, travel health insurance prices are not bad. As with all travel insurance, my suggestion is that you check with one or two of the online travel insurance agencies, enter your personal details, trip details, and the coverages you want, and select the least expensive policy that meets your needs. Some of the major agencies include InsureMyTrip.com, Squaremouth, and QuoteWright.
Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.
When you’re late for a flight—or trying to make a tight connection—getting through airport security as quickly as possible is key. Beyond enrolling in TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry or Clear, you can get through an airport security line faster by booking your flight at the right time and organizing your carry-on.
Research waiting times in advance
Before you head to the airport, try researching security waiting times to avoid long lines. Apps like MyTSAhave crowd-sourced reports of waiting times at most airports; because they’re crowd-sourced, however, they may not always be reliable. Still, it might help you better assess when to arrive at an airport—it also uses historical data to make estimated waiting times and includes information on airport delays, as reported by the FAA.
Some airports, like JFK and LaGuardia, also have real-time estimates on their websites, too, though you’re less likely to find these stats from smaller airports. You can also do an online search for your airport’s estimated wait times using iFly.com, which uses flight volume data and “predictive modeling” to make make best guesses (though it doesn’t account for real-time reports); just search for your airport and “security lines iFly” and the relevant times should appear in the first page of results.
As USA Today writes, you might want to schedule an early morning flight when airports are likely to be less busy and long security lines might be easier to avoid. As we’ve written before, early-morning flights are alsoless likely to be delayed. Or you can opt to fly out of quieter airports than major ones; in California, you might choose smaller airports like John Wayne Airport or Long Beach to avoid long wait times (and traffic) at LAX.
It also doesn’t hurt to look up your airport’s map if you’re unfamiliar with it to find the security line itself, which is particularly useful for tight layovers.
“I’m LAX based, and the entire airport is divided into separate terminals,” u/PlaneShenanigans, a pilot, wrote on a recent Reddit thread. “… It’s amazing how many passengers flying through LAX leave 30 minutes to make a connection when they’ll have to change terminals, which essentially guarantees you’ll miss your flight. Just a little planning ahead will prevent things like this from happening.”
While on a recent trip through Tokyo’s Narita airport, I also found a number of different security lines spread out throughout the terminal and was able to locate one with a particularly short line.
Compartmentalize electronics and liquids and dress appropriately
Perhaps the easiest way to expedite the security process is to properly compartmentalize any electronics and liquids you’ll have to remove from your carry-on. I always keep my laptop in a removable sleeve and all liquids (under 3.5 ounces, of course) packed in a clear plastic, quart-sized bag toward the top of my carry-on so I don’t have to sift through my belongings at security. As SmarterTravel writes, keeping any liquids or gels deep in in your carry-on might only delay the security process.
Also be sure to remove any liquids larger than 3.4 ounces as well as rechargeable lithium batteries you might find in carry-on bags like Away suitcases; you can place them in a bin, too, so you aren’t held up at security.
The Points Guy has another good recommendation: Dress appropriately. Wear a jacket with pockets for your phone, Passport, ID or wallet, so you can quickly remove them and place them together in a single bin. Also, wear shoes that can easily be slipped off and remove any belts while you’re in line; in other words, do everything you can before you reach the end of the security line.
If you want, you could check your bag to avoid the extra hassle at security, but that’ll only mean another wait at baggage claim at the other end of your trip.
Personally, I’ve also found that lines for full body scanners generally seem to take a much longer time than those with walk-through metal detectors; if you have the option of choosing one, I’d go with the line with the metal detector.
Book a trip with someone who has TSA Pre-Check and download Mobile Passport
While not an official rule, for the most part, you might able able to use someone else’s TSA Pre-Check status (and the privileges that come along with it); for this to work, the passenger with Pre-Check will have to book both flights under the same itinerary. When you check in, both tickets should show up with the Pre-Check status. We should re-iterate: It’s not fail-proof, but it’s worked a handful of times for me in the past. Some credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve may also offer TSA Pre-Check registration for free as a perk, so be sure to look up your own card’s benefits.
Lastly, if you’re traveling overseas and want to avoid long customs lines, don’t forget to download Mobile Passport; you can submit your information via the app in advance and easily breeze through customs at a number of U.S. airports.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the world’s 20 most dangerous cities – the ones with the highest murder rates – as reported by El Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal (The Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice), a Mexico City-based advocacy group.
This northwestern Mexican city debuted on this annual ranking in 2014 with a homicide rate of 37.7 murders per 100,000 residents, the world’s 31st and Mexico’s fourth most dangerous city that year. After nearly dropping from the list in 2015, ranking 50th that year, the murder rate rose to 52 per 100,000 in 2018 largely due to local rival drug-gang violence.
Local organized crime drove the homicide rate in Jamaica’s capital city to a recent peak of nearly 60 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017. That rate has declined to 54 per 100,000 in 2018, pushing Kingston’s ranking up from 16th to 19th in this annual list of the world’s 50 most dangerous cities that started with 2013 data.
A recent increase in violent crime has put this highland inland city on this list of the world’s most dangerous cities for the first time since records began in 2013. Violent crime, largely in the form of gun-related homicides, continued in 2019, despite reported heightened security operations. The governor of Michoacán state has pledged to further increase police presence to stem a rising tide of organized criminal activity.
Venezuela’s fourth most populous city became its fourth most dangerous in 2018. The city’s murder rate rose from 8.2 per 100,000 residents in 2017 to 57 per 100,000 residents in 2018. The murder rate has hovered between 46 and 60 per 100,000 residents since 2014.
16. Culiacán, Mexico
• Homicides per 100,000 in 2018: 61
• Homicides in 2018: 585
• Population: 966,609
The capital of northwestern Sinaloa state has a long history as a center of drug cartel activity, and though it ranks high among Mexico’s most dangerous cities, it’s fallen from second place in 2014 to seventh in 2018. The homicide rate declined in 2018 from 70.1 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017. Like other cities in Mexico’s northwest and border regions, Culiacán struggles to contain drug-gang gun violence with only a recent modest decline in killings.
Chicago is often derided for its violent crime, but St. Louis has been the murder capital of the United States since 2014, while Chicago has never made this list. The homicide rate in St. Louis declined in 2018 to 61 murders per 100,000 residents from nearly 66 per 100,000 in 2017. The last time the rate was below 50 was in 2013 (the first year of this annual report), when the murder rate was 34 per 100,000 and St. Louis as the fourth most dangerous U.S. city.
Located roughly 60 miles northwest of Salvador, Brazil (ranked 29th on this list), the homicide rate in this inland city increased in 2018 from 58.8 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017. This is the fourth consecutive year that Feira de Santana appears on this annual report. The city is a major commercial center for Bahia state, making it an ideal conduit for regional drug trafficking.
The popular tourist destination of Cancún on the country’s Caribbean coast has emerged for the first time on this annual ranking. The local murder rate more than doubled in 2018 as violence escalated amid a nationwide record-breaking homicide rate in 2018 attributed to drug and non-drug related criminal gang violence. More Mexican cities have appeared on this list for the first time than the number cities that dropped from the list last year.
This eastern gateway city in the lush Amazon region, the capital of Pará (Brazil’s second largest state by landmass) is Brazil’s third most dangerous city for a second consecutive year. The city was the country’s second most dangerous city in 2016 with a rate of 67.4 homicides per 100,000 residents. The rate increased a year later, to 71.4 per 100,000, but the city’s ranking among Brazil’s most dangerous cities fell from second to third place in 2017 because of a sharper increase in murders in Fortaleza (No. 9 on this list) and Natal (No. 8 on this list).
South Africa’s legislative capital is consistently also the country’s murder capital, with a homicide rate that hit a record high since the first edition of the annual report by The Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice in 2013. The murder rate increased last year to 66 homicides per 100,000 residents following two consecutive annual declines from 65.5 per 100,000 in 2015. Cape Town also fell in the ranks from the world’s 15th most dangerous city in 2017 to 11th in 2018. In 2015, the city was the top 10 most dangerous cities on this list, at No. 9.
Violent crime has flourished as Venezuela has been in the process of collapsing into a failed state. Ciudad Bolívar, located 75 miles up the Orinoco River from Guyana City (No. 7 on this list), debuted in 2018 on this list of the 50 world’s most dangerous cities. In addition to the rise in violent crime in the city, Bolivar was flooded in August of last year. This may lead to a rise in opportunistic criminal activity.
The murder rate in one of Brazil’s biggest cities dropped from 83.5 homicies per 100,000 residents in 2017, the highest rate for the city in over five years. Located about 1,400 miles north of São Paulo, the capital of northeastern Ceará state, Fortaleza was Brazil’s second most dangerous city last year.
The capital and largest city in Rio Grande do Norte, the second largest oil-producing state in Brazil, experienced a decline in the homicide rate from nearly 103 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017 to 75 per 100,000 in 2018. Fortaleza (ranked ninth on this list) slightly edged out Natal as the country’s most dangerous city in 2015. But since then, Natal, a port city 120 miles up the coast from João Pessoa (44th on this list), has been country’s murder capital for three consecutive years.
This Venezuelan port city on the banks of the Orinoco River is Venezuela’s second most dangerous city for the second consecutive year despite a slight drop in the homicide rate last year, from 80.3 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017. Violent crime appears to be spreading along the Orinoco, with Ciudad Bolivar, 65 miles west of Guyana City, appearing on this list for the first time at No. 10. Like elsewhere in the country, the region’s cities are struggling with food scarcities and high crime amid Venezuela’s years-long and worsening economic and security crisis.
A newcomer to this annual ranking, Irapuato has debuted with 81 murders per 100,000 residents in 2018. Suddenly, this lush city in the center of Mexico’s Guanajuato state, known for its scenic gardens, has become Mexico’s fifth most dangerous city. Irapuato has been sucked into a regional rise in criminal gang activity, including kidnappings and extortion.
This border city of over 1.4 million people across the river from El Paso experienced a sharp increase in murders in 2018, with the murder rate rising from 56.2 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2017 to 86 per 100,000. The city appeared first on this list with a homicide rate of nearly 38 per 100,000 residents in 2013, at the time Mexico’s seventh most dangerous city. The city fell off the list in 2015 but reappeared a year later. Since then, the homicide rate has increased in each of the past three consecutive years, and Juárez now has the third highest murder rate in Mexico.
The capital of Tamaulipas state, at Mexico’s northeastern border with Texas, has been ravaged in recent years by turf wars between offshoot gangs that split off from the Gulf and Zeta cartels in the wake of heightened security operations. Killings flared in 2016, when the city’s homicide rate jumped to nearly 85 murders per 100,000 residents from just over 30 per 100,00 a year earlier. Victoria is currently Mexico’s third most dangerous city.
Caracas holds the dubious distinction of being the world’s most dangerous national capital each year since data was first compiled for the study in 2013. It’s also been either the most or second most dangerous city on this annual ranking until it fell to third place in 2018, displaced by the Mexican cities of Tijuana and Acapulco.
Tijuana may have been the murder capital of Mexico last year, but the touristic western port city of Acapulco has been the most or second most dangerous Mexican city every year since 2013, the first year of this report. Acapulco has racked up a significantly higher body count over the years than other Mexican cities on this list, with homicides rates of between 104 and 113 murders per 100,000 residents in each of the past six years.
This Mexican border city 15 miles south of downtown San Diego has long been one of Mexico’s most violent cities. But even by murder-capital standards, Tijuana has an extremely high murder rate, with no signs of the killings abating. Already, 2019 kicked off with three murders on New Year’s Eve. The city’s homicide rate jumped from roughly 100 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017 to 138 per 100,000 in 2018.
One of the scariest examples of an overheated airliner came in June 2017, when a woman and her beet-red, 4-month-old baby needed ice bags and then an ambulance because of the heat of a flight in Denver. The child revived with treatment.
But flight attendants’ unions assembled dozens of other anecdotes of planes either too hot or too cold for comfort. With those, the group is urging the Transportation Department to begin regulating the temperature aboard airliners. The union’s anecdotes included stories of flight attendants and passengers occasionally passing out or becoming ill aboard hot planes.
“Today there are no standards that exist for aircraft temperatures, for the passengers or the crews that are working those flights,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 workers at 20 airlines, told a news conference Wednesday at Reagan National Airport in Washington. “This is an issue of safety, health and security. If it’s too hot, people can become dizzy, unaware, suffer from heat stroke. If it’s too cold, they can experience cold stress or even hypothermia.”
The department received the petition and is considering it.
The industry group Airlines for America, which represents most of the largest carriers, said regulations are unnecessary because flight attendants work with pilots to adjust each cabin’s temperature on a case-by-case basis with the maintenance teams at each airline.
“The safety and well-being of our passengers and crew is the industry’s No. 1 priority,” said Alison McAfee, a spokeswoman for the airline group. “U.S. airlines work hard to maintain a level of comfort passengers expect on each and every flight, including the temperature of the cabin.”
The only temperature regulation now requires the cabin temperature to be within 5 degrees of the cockpit. But it doesn’t set minimums or maximums.
The department can potentially fine an airline for lengthy tarmac delays of three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights. But planes can heat up faster than that. A Federal Aviation Administration advisory recommends letting passengers off planes if there is no ventilation for 30 minutes.
The industry consensus from unions, airlines, manufacturers and airports is that an acceptable temperature aboard a plane is 65 to 75 degrees, and up to 85 degrees if all entertainment units are functioning, according to Nelson. Strategies to keep a plane cool on the ground include closing the window shades and filtering in cooler air from the jetway.
But problems can arise with the auxiliary power units aboard planes on the ground and the ground-based air conditioning that airlines and airports can provide.
To gather data, unions are distributing 60,000 thermometers during August for flight attendants to report uncomfortable temperatures that will be shared with the department. The unions also have created an app called 2Hot2Cold for passengers to report extreme temperatures, and collected thousands of reports already.
“Extreme cabin temperature while boarding and working on an aircraft inhibit a flight attendant’s No. 1 responsibility: the safety and security of passengers,” said Lyn Montgomery, president of Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents 20,000 flight attendants at Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Allegiant Air.
Southwest flight attendants can already report warm cabin temperatures via their iPads, with the date, city, flight number, time of day and locations on the plane that were warmest. The airline’s technical operations team then reviews the information, and possibly checks the plane.
Southwest noted that it serves 99 U.S. destinations with varying climates and temperatures, pilots and flight attendants are authorized to adjust cabin temperature through the auxiliary power unit aboard the plane or air-conditioning units at airports.
The unions’ petition submitted July 2 gathered anonymous reports from crew members that are submitted to NASA and to the unions. Those anonymous reports included:
— In June 2018, a flight attendant reported temperature above 88 degrees in a plane stuck on the ground for more than two hours with the door open: “I felt as though we were all being held hostage.”
— In July 2017, a passenger collapsed in the galley of a hot plane and he was taken away by ambulance. Seven more people sought medical care at the gate.
— In August 2014, a flight attendant on an MD-80-type plane reported “sweating profusely” and passing out in a jump seat because an auxiliary power unit wasn’t working to cool the plane: “I was hot, dizzy, confused and then blacked out.”
— In July 2014, the captain of a CRJ-900 reported the temperature in the cockpit rarely went below 90 degrees during three flights in one day.
— In September 2013, one flight attendant felt ill and another began vomiting because of “very hot” temperatures during three flights in one day.
Greg Regan, secretary-treasurer of the Transportation Trades Department of AFL-CIO, said extreme temperatures can divert flights and force passengers to change planes, which causes flight disruptions to ripple across the country.
“Incidents where an infant is hospitalized or a passenger or a crew member becomes seriously ill should spur government action to ensure that these events never happen again,” Regan said.
Bart Jansen, USA TODAY
Here’s some scary news that should make your next trip a very uncomfortable one.
Bed bugs were recently found on the business class seats of an Air India flight from Newark Liberty International Airport in the U.S to India.
Reports from Fox5NY joined outraged business class passengers who took to Twitter to express their anger and disgust at the airline. The passengers revealed that their seats were infested with bed bugs, causing them to have “bites all over their body” once they landed.
Whilst some may argue that it’s an isolated case since they’d probably never travel to India, there’s still the concern of how the bed bugs got there in the first place and whether or not they’re in the airport (likely).
Another major question raised is how often these plane seats get cleaned.
@airindiain @sureshpprabhu @narendramodi_in Suresh Prabhuji – just arrived from New York on Air India 144 business class with family . All our seats infested with bed bugs . Sir , have heard of bed bugs on trains but shocked to experience on our maharaja and that too business
And the aftermath…
One passenger even raised a good point after his children were fed to the blood sucking critters.
@airindiain my wife and three kids flex business class AI 144 from Newark to mumbai; now they have bed bug bites all over their body; is this is what we paid $10,000 for???
Kashmira Tonsekar who was a passenger on the flight told The Hindustan Times that they had alerted the crew of the situation who then sprayed a repellant.
“After a while, more bugs started coming out from that and other seats.”
Air India have since come out to address the issue via a statement saying that it is “deeply concerned with a few reports of ‘bugs’ causing inconvenience to its esteemed passengers”.
“The issue has been viewed seriously and every possible step is being taken to closely inspect and further strengthen our system at every level to ensure that such isolated incidents of passenger discomfiture do not affect our consistent performance.”
Does this bode well with your faith in business class? Let us know.
by Mike Huynh
If Shark Week has you wondering whether you should stay out of the water, a shark map from Oceana may be just what you need.
The international ocean conservation and advocacy organization created the new interactive map with animated shark tracks and commercial fishing activity along the East Coast.
Oceana worked with the company Beneath the Waves, the University of Miami Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and others to build the map.
The new map shows the movements of 45 tagged sharks overlaid with commercial fishing activity.
“As people celebrate Shark Week, it’s important to remember that sharks are under threat,” Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana, said in a news release.
The shark map (Oceana)
“Using interactive tools like Global Fishing Watch, paired with tagged wildlife data, we can learn more about how commercial fishing impacts these animals. Oceana hopes to expand this initiative by collaborating with other researchers who are interested in sharing their marine wildlife tagging data,” Lowell continued, according to the News & Observer.
Two children were bitten by sharks off Long Island last week: one victim, a 12-year old girl, was in waist-deep water when it happened; the other, a 13-year-old boy, was boogie boarding at the time.
Those shark attacks were the first reported since 1931 in the New York City metropolitan area.
The Oceana map tracks a range of sharks, including blue sharks, tiger sharks and shortfin mako sharks.
“Many species of large sharks remain highly vulnerable throughout our oceans, and the integration provided here highlights the magnitude of threats they face,” project leader Austin Gallagher, chief scientist and CEO of Beneath the Waves, said in the Oceana release.
Travelers who are Jewish should take precautions when in the United Kingdom.
FACT: 1,382 hate incidents and 34% rise in violent assaults against Jewish people in 2017 logged [a report by by Community Security Trust].
Anti-Semitic hate incidents have reached a record level in the UK, with the Jewish community targeted at a rate of nearly four times a day last year, figures indicate.
There was no obvious single cause behind the trend, the trust said. “Often increases in anti-Semitic incidents have been attributable to reactions to specific trigger events that cause identifiable, short-term, spikes in incident levels. However, this was not the case in 2017. Instead, it appears that the factors that led to a general, sustained, high level of anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 continued throughout much of 2017.”
The report pointed to a rise in all forms of hate crime following the EU referendum as well as publicity surrounding alleged antisemitism in the Labour party. These factors may have caused higher levels of incidents as well as encouraged more reporting of anti-Semitic incidents from victims and witnesses in the Jewish community, the trust said.
The trust’s figures showed a 34% increase in the number of violent anti-Semitic assaults, from 108 in 2016 to 145 in 2017. The most common single type of incident in 2017 involved verbal abuse randomly directed at Jewish people in public.
Bed bugs are bed bad. People’s entire lives have been overturned by these (increasingly common) blood-sucking, itch-inducing pests. Thankfully, they’re not disease vectors, but I would rather not share my home with a roommate who wants to eat me, thank you very much.
Scientists have noticed an expansion in bed bug cases across the world, in no small part due to increased international travel. But one team wanted to know how the bed bugs managed to hitch a ride, and how to prevent the spread. It turns out that part of the answer lies with the dirty laundry inside your travel bag.
“There are a lot of good studies out there focused on trying to understand how bed bugs are attracted to humans and how they get around apartment blocks, but no one has really talked about how they get into the house in the first place,” study author William Hentley from the University of Sheffield in the UK told Gizmodo. “Stopping people from bringing bed bugs home can be a big step in preventing them spreading throughout the world.”
Scientists already know that human odor attracts bed bugs, though not which chemicals in the odor specifically. But for the newest study, researchers prepared a mock bedroom with laundry bags containing clean and dirty clothes—in other words, there were no humans in the room. The critters were “twice as likely to aggregate on bags containing soiled clothes compared to bags containing clean clothes,” according to the paper published today in the journal Scientific Reports. Contrary to the researchers’ hypothesis, the amount of carbon dioxide in the room did not affect their results—the CO2 source would represent a human, since some bugs like mosquitos are specifically attracted to the carbon dioxide you exhale.
As a caveat, this was an experimental room and not real life, said both Hentley and Toby Fountain, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Uppsala in Sweden who was not involved in the study. But still, said Fountain, the authors “demonstrate a striking pattern that bags containing clothes with human odor were more frequently used as refuges than those without. This result emphases the importance of making sure luggage and other belongings are made as inaccessible to bed bugs as possible when staying in increased risk places, for example by making sure bags are fully closed and secured and kept away from the bed.” Hentley agreed with this advice.
So there you have it. When traveling to possibly bed bug-contaminated locations—like, say, that sketchy-seeming hotel—keep your luggage on metal racks (bed bugs don’t like crawling on metal, said Hentley) or put your whole suitcase in a plastic bag to avoid picking up the horrors that are bed bugs.