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Hong Kong heightens bedbug warning for airport passengers due to Seoul outbreak

After the rising number of bedbug infestation cases in Seoul and numerous reports of a Paris and London outbreak, Hong Kong is taking steps to prevent bedbugs from increasing in the city, as authorities began to distribute bedbug warning leaflets to the public at the airport.

The leaflets, given by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) for foreign visitors and locals returning to the city, aim to raise awareness about bedbugs and provide suggestions on possible actions to be performed if there is detection.

Though there are still no official reports of any bedbug infestations as of now, Hong Kong experts stressed the possible risk of foreign transmission as the mentioned bloodsucking can easily infest public transport and travelers’ luggage.

Staff of FEHD distributes promotional leaflets to incoming visitors at the Hong Kong International Airport on October 8, 2023

“Although information shows that bedbugs will not spread diseases, bedbug bites may cause skin allergy and itchiness and make people feel unwell. The government therefore takes swift actions to minimize the chance of transmission of bedbugs from overseas to the local community,” said one Hong Kong government spokesperson.

It is known that Seoul is a popular travel destination among Hongkongers. As of Sunday, November 12, there have been an estimated 33 infestation reports throughout South Korea between mid-October and the present. It is said to be four times bigger than the nine cases documented by the country’s disease control agency for the past 10 years.

Because of this, it also sparked panic buying of insect killers and a ballooning amount of inquiries regarding pest control in Hong Kong.

Pest control company Nobedbugs-HK’s owner and head technician Francisco Pazos and Yuen Ming-chi, former head of Hong Kong’s Pest Control Advisory Section, said that bedbugs are common in the city.

“Hong Kong is like Disneyland for bedbugs […] because it is so dense, there are lots of places for them to lay eggs but also move from person to person,” Nobedbugs-HK’s owner and head technician Francisco Pazos added.

Yuen agreed that bedbugs are already a prevalent problem in the city, but because of recent reports and viral posts online, the public has gained more awareness about it.

On the other hand, FEHD told airlines and the airport authority to “enhance hygiene to ward off bedbugs.”

Furthermore, the authorities also asked the public to “stay vigilant and check if there are bedbugs in hotel rooms or public places while traveling abroad” and urged returning locals to “check their personal luggage for bedbugs and wash clothes in hot water — 60 degrees Celsius — when necessary.”

Poster of a bedbug

Bedbugs are small, oval-shaped parasitic insects of a reddish-brown color. It measures roughly 6 mm (0.2 inches) which is near the size of a BB gun pellet. These insects are found in every place people gather such as residences, hotels, schools, offices, retail stores, and even public transportation.

Also, they are also great “hitchhikers” as they are capable of traveling long distances. They latch onto people’s suitcases, clothes, and linens and arrive wherever these objects are transported.


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