Jurors give $289 million to a man they say got cancer from Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller

(CNN)San Francisco jurors just ruled that Roundup, the most popular weedkiller in the world, gave a former school groundskeeper terminal cancer.

So they awarded him $289 million in damages — mostly to punish the agricultural company Monsanto.
Dewayne Johnson’s victory Friday could set a massive precedent for thousands of other cases claiming Monsanto’s famous herbicide causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Johnson’s case was the first to go to trial because doctors said he was near death. And in California, dying plaintiffs can be granted expedited trials.
Dewayne Johnson reacts after hearing the verdict in a California superior court.

CNN reported last year that more than 800 patients were suing Monsanto, claiming Roundup gave them cancer.
Since then, hundreds more plaintiffs — including cancer patients, their spouses or their estates — have also sued Monsanto, making similar claims.
After three days of deliberations this week, the jury at the Superior Court of California in San Francisco awarded Johnson $250 million in punitive damages and about $39 million in compensatory damages.
It won’t change the fact that Johnson’s two sons might lose their dad soon. But it will help them live more comfortably, Johnson’s attorney Timothy Litzenburg said.
Doctors weren't sure Johnson would live long enough to see his trial.

“He’s going to live the rest of that time in extreme comfort,” Litzenburg said.
After the verdict, Monsanto issued a statement saying it stands by the studies that suggest Roundup does not cause cancer.
“We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective and safe tool for farmers and others,” Monsanto Vice President Scott Partridge said.
But Litzenburg said an appeal would be costly for Monsanto, since the company would have to pay interest on the damages while the case is being appealed. That’s about $25 million a year, he said.

Lesions on much of his body

Johnson, 46, applied Roundup weedkiller 20 to 30 times per year while working as a groundskeeper for a school district near San Francisco, his attorneys said.
He testified that during his work, he had two accidents in which he was soaked with the product. The first accident happened in 2012.
Two years later, in 2014, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
On bad days, Johnson is too crippled to speak. Lesions cover as much as 80% of his body.
Johnson had lesions on most of his body, a doctor said.

Litzenburg said the most heartbreaking part of Johnson’s testimony was when the father of two described telling his sons that he had terminal cancer. Johnson’s wife now works two 40-hour-per-week jobs to support the family, Litzenburg said.

How carcinogenic (or not) are Roundup and glyphosate?

The big questions at stake were whether Roundup can cause cancer and, if so, whether Monsanto failed to warn consumers about the product’s cancer risk. The jury sided with Johnson on both.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said the key ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
“For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” the report states.
But Monsanto has long maintained that Roundup does not cause cancer, and that the IARC report is greatly outnumbered by studies saying glyphosate is safe.
“More than 800 scientific studies, the US EPA, the National Institutes of Health and regulators around the world have concluded that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer,” said Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of strategy.
He highlighted the Agricultural Health Study, which studied the effects of pesticides and glyphosate products on farmers and their spouses from 1993 to 2013.
“Many had already been using Roundup and other formulated products (since) it first came on the market,” Partridge said.
summary of that study said “no association was apparent between glyphosate and any solid tumors or lymphoid malignancies overall, including NHL (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma).”
“We all have sympathy for Mr. Johnson,” Partridge said this week. “It’s natural he’s looking for answers. Glyphosate is not the answer.”
Johnson watches in court as the first cancer patient to take Monsanto to trial over Roundup.

But Litzenburg said glyphosate isn’t the big problem — Roundup is. He said the interaction between glyphosate and other ingredients in Roundup cause a “synergistic effect” that makes the product more carcinogenic.
Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord disputed that notion, saying regulatory authorities help ensure Roundup as a whole is safe.
“The safety of each labeled use of a pesticide formulation must be evaluated and approved by regulatory authorities before it is authorized for sale,” she said.
But Litzenburg said Friday’s verdict should be a huge wake-up call to the EPA.
“I think it’s going to make people sit up and make government agencies take a closer look at banning (Roundup),” Litzenburg said.

What did Johnson have to prove?

While it was medically impossible to prove Roundup caused Johnson’s terminal illness, it’s also impossible for Monsanto to prove Roundup did not cause his cancer.
Thousands of other plaintiffs are awaiting trial, claiming Roundup causes cancer.

“Cancer is a very difficult case to try,” Litzenburg said. “You can’t X-ray it or biopsy it and come back with what caused it.”
In this case, Monsanto was not required to prove anything. The burden of proof was on Johnson, the plaintiff.
But that doesn’t mean Johnson’s attorneys had to prove Roundup was the sole cause of his cancer. All they had to prove was whether Roundup was a “substantial contributing factor” to his illness.
“Under California law, that means Mr. Johnson’s cancer would not have occurred but for his exposure to Roundup,” Monsanto spokeswoman Lord said.
She noted that it’s possible his cancer could have developed from something unrelated to Roundup.
The majority of lymphoma cases are idiopathic — meaning the cause is unknown, according to the American Cancer Society.
Litzenburg agreed that most non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases have not been linked to one primary reason in the past. But he said the tide is starting to turn — similar to how it took decades for people to learn that tobacco can be a big contributing factor for lung cancer.
“You can’t take a lung cancer tumor and run a test that proves that tobacco caused that cancer. … You’re seeing the same thing here,” Litzenburg said. “I think we’re in the beginning of that era of this dawning on us as a country — as a public — the connection between these two things.”

Thousands of cases to follow

Johnson hugs one of his lawyers after the jury awarded him $289 million in damages.

Litzenburg said he and other attorneys have more than 4,000 similar cases awaiting trial in various state courts.
He estimates another 400 cases have been filed in federal multidistrict litigation, or MDL.
MDL is similar to a class-action lawsuit because it consolidates pre-trial proceedings for the sake of efficiency. But unlike a class-action lawsuit, each case within an MDL gets its own trial — with its own outcome.
In other words, one MDL plaintiff might get a large settlement, while another plaintiff might get nothing.
No dates have been set for those MDL trials, Litzenburg said.
But one advantage of filing in state court — as Johnson did — instead of through MDL is that state courts sometimes produce outcomes faster. And that can be priceless for terminally ill patients.
Litzenburg said Friday’s verdict is historic, especially since Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world.
“This is a big victory for human health worldwide,” he said.

Bedbug Problem At Owasso’s Macy’s Distribution Center, Employees Claim

Brian Dorman, News on 6

Workers at Owasso’s Macy’s Fulfillment Center say there’s a bedbug problem that started out small and is getting bigger.

There are concerns for the workers at the distribution center, but also claims that the bedbugs have the possibility of getting shipped out to homes all around the country.

“I’ve confronted management about it and was basically told to keep my mouth shut about it, not to cause panic,” said Macy’s employee Kathy Woodson.

Woodson has worked at the Owasso facility for two years. She admits she will likely get fired for speaking out, but says it’s worth it if something’s done. She says she’s tired of staying silent after nearly a dozen complaints.

“Asking them what we should do if we take them home with us, basically we’re on our own,” said Woodson. “Customers wouldn’t be able to pinpoint that they came from us, just to be hush about it.”

One employee who has worked there for three years and wanted to remain anonymous wrote, “The bugs just became a problem last year. People have found most bedbugs in the packing department and that’s where they pack customers’ orders and send them to shipping to be shipped out.”

Another employee wrote that “[i]t is absolutely a problem because I got them from work. I know the bugs have been spotted in prep, pack, and home dept.”

“Have seen them personally. They are in all departments and have been there for a while,” yet another employee said. “They’ve been taken to the managers and then the VP and still nothing.”

Andrea Schwartz, the Vice President of Media for Macy’s, said she has never heard about the problem at the Owasso distribution center.

Schwartz also said, “It’s a big company. I have the whole country. Again, it’s not my job to be aware of every building.”

“I think they’re just trying to cover up,” stated Woodson. “I would like for them to take care of the problem.”

The company did not confirm or deny the presence of bedbugs but did release a statement, which reads:

“Macy’s is committed to ensuring the safety of our merchandise and packaging for our customers and to maintaining a safe and sanitary working environment for our colleagues. We routinely inspect our distribution facilities and have ongoing preventative measures in place.

“Additionally, we work closely with our vendor partners to ensure the thousands of products coming through our facilities on daily basis meet our standards. If an issue is identified, we take swift action to address the situation.”

Health officials investigating “several cases” of West Nile, Zika virus in Alabama

“Mosquitoes can transmit viruses when they bite, causing illnesses that range from mild to severe or even fatal.”


Alabama health officials say there are investigations into several reported cases of Zika and West Nile virus.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, there have been three confirmed cases of Zika virus in the state since May.



Last week, Shelby County health officials began warning local residents about a confirmed case in Pelham.

“To date in Alabama, the Zika virus has only been identified in individuals known to have traveled to areas where Zika is known to be endemic,” the Alabama Department of Public Health said in a release Monday. “There has been no local transmission.”

An assistant professor in UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases will discuss the state of Zika at a 1:30 p.m. news conference. You can watch it here, on the WVTM 13 Facebook page or in the WVTM 13 News app.

CDC tips for prevention:

  • When going outdoors, use EPA-registered repellents containing 20 percent DEET on skin or permethrin on clothes. Follow label instructions carefully when using any repellent. Repellents should not be used on infants less than 2 months old.
  • Wear loose-fitting long sleeves and long pants.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors. Use air-conditioning, if available.
  • Empty standing water from items outside homes such as flowerpots, buckets, old tires and children’s pools.
  • Clean clogged gutters and clear drainage ditches and pipes of debris.

Zika symptoms

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Red eyes
  • Muscle pain

Symptoms can last for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. Once a person has been infected with Zika, they are likely to be protected from future infections.

More Zika info:

What everyone needs to know about Zika

How Zika spreads/Protecting your family

Is bug spray enough to fight Zika?

Bed bugs can be found outside the home

By: James Gilbert

GREECE, NY (WROC) – Complaints of bed bugs were received by the Monroe County Health Department at the Barnes & Noble in Greece earlier last week.

Barnes & Noble told us the situation has been taken care of, saying in a statement

 “It is now safe for customers to shop at this store. We take the health and safety of our customers and booksellers very seriously.”

Bed bugs may often be associated with the home, but often the bug can be found in other settings.

“Bedbugs are always going to be where people spend the majority of their time,” said Exodus Exterminator’s general manager and co-owner Dale Larnder.

In an office setting, chairs can be one of the most common places. Bedbugs can be found just about anywhere at any time of year. They also travel well. “They could actually transport them to their work place, maybe a place they’re visiting, a retail setting, office, clinic, doctor’s office,” said Larnder.

Some blame may go on the workplace, but Larnder says the problem might be the person. “They’re experiencing bites, and they just equate that to, they’re just getting it at the work place.”

Treatment is insecticides over a few weeks, but heat treatments can do it in one day. The most important part it to get a quality inspection by a certified exterminator.

Court to EPA: Chlorpyrifos ban is on!

Happy kids

As of Thursday morning, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has 60 days to finalize its ban of the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos.

This was the ruling of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on August 9. The judges determined that EPA broke the law by allowing continued use of the pesticide despite scientific evidence linking it to harmful impacts on children’s developing brains.

“Children, farmworkers, rural families and science are all huge winners today,” said PAN’s executive director Kristin Schafer in a press statement responding to the court ruling. “Sadly, under this administration it takes judges to force our public agencies to stand up to corporate interests and do their jobs.”

The decision was in response to years-long litigation brought by PAN, NRDC, Earthjustice and other farmworker and environmental health organizations.

Bad for children, farmworkers & families

Chlorpyrifos is a widely used and highly-volatile neurotoxic chemical that study after study has shown is harming the development of children’s brains. When mothers are exposed during pregnancy, their children are at higher risk of having lower IQs, developmental delays and autism.

In fall 2016, EPA’s own scientists published a follow-up assessment of health risks that found that, through their diet, infants were being exposed to the pesticide at levels 140 times what could be considered safe.

In the same assessment, the scientists also found that farmworkers were exposed at unsafe levels in the field — the chemical routinely sickens workers and sends them to the hospital.

A long time coming

EPA scientists put forward a proposal in late 2015 to withdraw all uses of chlorpyrifos on food crops. But in a controversial about-face in March 2017, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt called the science on chlorpyrifos “unresolved,” and said agency experts will continue thinking about it until at least 2022. This announcement came just weeks after meeting with executives from Dow Agrochemical (now Corteva Agriscience), which makes the pesticide.

This win highlights the importance of the courts under an administration that is consistently prioritizing corporate interests over public health. In the months since Pruitt’s reversal of the decision to ban chlorpyrifos, policy momentum at the state-level in the absence of national action has also been encouraging — Hawai’i recently banned the pesticide in the state, and California scientists recently listed it as an air contaminant and developmental toxicant.

EPA, the court has ruled. You have 60 days.

Babies Who Seem Fine At Birth May Have Zika-Related Problems Later, Study Finds

Mother Daniele Santos holds her baby Juan Pedro, who has microcephaly, on May 30, 2016, in Recife, Brazil. Researchers are now learning that Zika’s effects can appear up to a year after birth.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Since Zika emerged as a threat to babies, it has been a mystery exactly how much of a danger the mosquito-borne virus poses to children.

But now, the largest study to follow kids who were exposed to the virus in the womb is providing more answers.

The study involved 1,450 babies who had been exposed to the virus, and who were 1-year-old by February 2018. Six percent were born with birth defects, and 14 percent developed problems that could be blamed on the virus by the time they turned 1, the study found.

“We’re beginning to see the full spectrum of the impact of Zika,” says Margaret Honein, director of the Division of Congenital and Developmental Disorders at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC released the study Tuesday.

“This is really our first look at how these children are doing as they grow and develop, and really emphasizes that the Zika story is not over, particularly for these children,” Honein says.

Zika triggered an international public health emergency in 2016 when a large outbreak in Brazil revealed that the virus could cause babies to be born with very small heads and severely damaged brains when pregnant women get infected. The condition is called microcephaly.

It slowly has become more apparent that Zika-exposed babies could develop a range of other problems as well, including seizures, damaged vision and developmental disorders.

The CDC reported last year that about 5 percent of babies exposed in the womb are born with microcephaly and other birth defects. But the extent of the risk as children get older is just now starting to become clear.

The new analysis included babies born in U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and in U.S. freely associated states, such as the Marshall Islands. It found that the risk for birth defects including microcephaly and vision damage is slightly higher — about 6 percent. And 1 in 7 — 14 percent — developed some kind of problem that could have been caused by the virus by their first birthday.

For example, 20 babies in the new analysis whose heads were normal at birth had microcephaly by the time they turned 1.

“That happened because their brain was not growing and developing properly,” Honein says.

Babies also developed complications including cognitive problems, difficulties walking, moving and swallowing, and seizures.

“It’s really important that parents and doctors work together to make sure children get all the evaluations they need, even if they look healthy when they are born,” Honein says.

For example, only about one-third of the Zika-exposed babies in the study had an eye exam by an eye specialist.

It’s also important to continue to follow these children, she says.

“We are still in the early stages of learning about Zika. So we don’t yet know what sort of problems might emerge when the children are 2 years old or 3 years old or when they reach school age,” Honein says.

There are no major Zika outbreaks occurring right now. But Honein stresses Zika is still being transmitted in many countries and outbreaks still could occur.

So pregnant women and couples trying to conceive should continue to protect themselves while living or visiting places where Zika is being transmitted. The virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes, but can also be spread sexually.

The CDC on Tuesday also issued new interim guidance for men who were exposed to the virus. The agency is now recommending these men wait three months after exposure before trying to conceive. The CDC had previously recommended waiting six months. But the latest science suggests the virus doesn’t remain infectious in semen as long as previously thought.

New invasive ‘aggressive biter’ tick spreads across US, sparks concern

A new invasive tick species described as an “aggressive biter” has been found in a number of U.S. states, sparking concern from agriculture and health officials.

The Haemaphysalis longicornis tick, better known as the longhorned tick, is native to the Asia-Pacific region. Predominant hosts include humans, poultry, livestock, wild rodents, and birds, according to scientists.

The New York Times reports that the longhorned tick is the first new tick species to arrive in America for 50 years.


The tick was found for the first time in the U.S. late last year, when it was identified on a sheep in Hunterdon County, N.J. “Recently, the tick has also been found in Union and Middlesex Counties in New Jersey, as well as from a calf in Albemarle County in Virginia and cattle in Hardy County in West Virginia,” explained the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, in a recent note.

Additionally, the tick has been identified in Warren County, Va., as well as in Arkansas and at multiple locations in Westchester County, N.Y., according to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. The longhorned tick has also been found on an opossum in Polk County, N.C.

“It is a serious pest of livestock in its native regions and the means of introduction into the U.S. is unknown,” explained the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, in a recent statement.  “Its presence in N.C. signals the need among livestock producers and residents for greater awareness, surveillance, and tick control management. It is an aggressive biter and frequently builds intense infestations on animals causing great stress, reduced growth and production, and blood loss.”


In addition to eastern Asia, the tick is also a threat to livestock in Australia and New Zealand, where it is known as a “bush tick.”

‘While the longhorned tick has not been linked to any human infection in the U.S., the N.C. Division of Public Health is working with NCDA&CS [North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services] to understand its distribution and monitor for diseases it may carry,” officials added.

The New York State Departments of Health and Agriculture and Markets noted that the tick has transmitted disease to humans in other parts of the world, but said that more research is needed to determine whether this can happen in the U.S. “Regardless, New Yorkers should continue to take steps to protect themselves, their children and their pets against ticks and tickborne diseases that are present in New York State,” it said.


Human diseases transmitted by the tick in Asia include spotted fever rickettsiosis, a bacterial infection that ranges from mild to life-threatening. The New York Times reportsthat the biggest threat from the longhorned tick is a phlebovirus that causes Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS), an emerging infectious disease described as a “haemorrhagic fever.”

“The disease has become a substantial risk to public health, not only in China, but also in other parts of the world,” The Lancet reported in 2014.

The CDC provides advice on how best to remove a tick.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Bed bug infestation in Dublin hotel leaves tourists covered in horrific rashes and bites

The couple were spending a month in the Celtic Lodge on Talbot Street

By Aakanksha Surve

What is sharing your mattress?
Bed bug (Stock)

What was supposed to be an enjoyable summer holiday turned into a nightmare after two tourists discovered that their hotel room was teeming with bed bugs.

The couple, who are from Finland, were spending a month in the Celtic Lodge on Talbot Street, in Dublin.

They woke up to bites and rashes and were horrified to see bed bugs crawling all over the mattress, the Irish Independent reports.

The Celtic Lodge on Talbot Street (Image: Google Maps)

“I noticed something on my arms and my body but thought it was just an allergy.

“Then we saw insects moving and we thought they might have come from outside,” the tourist said.

The couple didn’t say anything at first, but they turned the mattress upside down and saw something moving on the bedclothes.

When they realised that they were bed bugs, they asked to me moved to another room.

The hotel moved them to another room and exterminators were called. The room and the couple’s luggage was sprayed but the bed bugs were still there when they moved back into the room.

Bed bugs can be hard to get rid of
Bed bugs can be hard to get rid of (Image: Internet Unknown)

In the end, they were moved three times before they left Dublin.

“We were always checking to see if we had any bites every morning,” the tourist said.

Other guests at the hotel were affected too.

“Then we saw there was a lovely family with a toddler at reception one day and the father was saying the word ‘bedbugs’.

“They said it was their wedding anniversary and they left in the middle of their holiday because they were so disappointed,” the tourist said.

The manager of the hotel said that it was an isolated incident and that the whole room was “gutted and refurbished, fixtures were removed” and had been treated by pest control.


This Army Lodge Just Had Bed Bugs

Ederle Inn Army Lodge (U.S. Army)
Ederle Inn Army Lodge (U.S. Army)

VICENZA, Italy — The Ederle Inn evicted some unwanted guests from a guest room last week when a military family discovered bed bugs in the room they stayed in seven nights previously.

U.S. Army Health Clinic Vicenza, Chief of Environmental Health Capt. Lileshwaran Reddy and an entomologist from U.S. Army Garrison Italy Public Works were called to put their experience to work. The room and guests’ room and luggage were inspected and treated with insecticide to kill the bugs.

“We follow a protocol used by many hotels in the lodging industry and called our garrison experts,” said Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation Director Chris Bradford. “The family was relocated to another room and the affected room will not be made available to another guest until we’re sure all the bugs are dead and gone.”

No other guest reports of bed bugs were made after notification by Ederle Inn management, social media and a distributed memo to guests from the garrison commander.

“This was an isolated incident,” said Reddy. “You can think of bed bugs as expert hitchhikers. They’re stowaways in luggage, purses, boxes, furniture, and other belongings. PCS season increases the likelihood of bed bugs. When families store clothes and luggage for two or three years and then only pull things out again when it comes time to move back stateside, there’s no telling what’s in them. The best defense is knowing what to look for,” said Reddy.

Stopping an infestation dead in its tracks from the onset is critical. A widespread infestation last summer at the Army’s Human Resource Command in Fort Knox shuttered six buildings for several days for fumigation. This incident impacted the entire U.S. Army as thousands of workers were sent home.

Summer weather and PCS season combine to increase the likelihood of bed bugs because high visitor traffic and lots of luggage. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. Most people do not realize they are transporting them as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel. Since bed bug eggs hatch 4-12 days after they are laid, their presence may not be evident until days after a resident arrives in a room.

Families preparing to PCS can prevent bed bugs from tagging along. The Army Public Health Center recommends keeping luggage on racks or otherwise off the floor. Inspect luggage prior to repacking. Laundering clothing using the highest heat settings for washing and drying for at least 30 minutes goes a long way.

Bed bugs and their eggs can be killed when exposed to temperatures of 115° F (46° C) for 15 minutes. If it’s possible, launder luggage. Otherwise examine it carefully under bright light. If bed bugs are discovered, determine a treatment option appropriate for the size and type of luggage. Proactive measures can go a long way in preventing bed bug infestations.

Housekeeping staff in Army Lodging received additional training this past week to reinforce the importance of being alert for bed bug infestation.

“We took this incident very seriously and we followed our Installation Pest Management Plan. Army Lodging strives to provide the best customer services for our Soldiers, civilians, and their families. It’s a team effort to ensure the Ederle Inn provides the most comfortable and secure temporary home for transitioning personnel,” said USAG Italy Garrison Commander Col. Erik Berdy.

How to Spot Bed Bugs in Your Airplane Seat

You might have more than concerns about your luggage making it to your destination on time to worry about on your next flight. Believe it or not, bed bugs could be hiding in the nooks and crannies of your very own airplane seat.

bed bugsAkos-Nagy/ShutterStock

While you may regularly inspect your hotel room for bed bugs, learning that these icky pests in your airplane seat might be news to seasoned jet-setters. But it happens more often than you think: A Canadian woman and her seven-year-old daughter ended up covered in bed bug bites after a recent British Airways flight.

Thankfully, you can take precautions to avoid becoming a bed bug’s next meal—starting with a close inspection of your seat cushion. Because bed bugs thrive at night while you sleep, you are more likely to find them on overnight and international flights. Some of the most common clues of a bed bug infestation include fecal stains, eggs, or even full-sized bugs near the cracks and crevices of the seat back cushion. You also might develop “itchy red bumps or a hive-like rash,” according to Jody Green, MD, an urban entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Here are more warning signs of bed bugs.

That said, “it may be tricky to identify a bed bug because of the different sizes and coloration based on age and feeding status,” Dr. Green says. As a good rule of thumb, she says most bed bugs are reddish-brown, flat, and oval-shaped. Their sizes can range anywhere between a poppy seed and an apple seed.

Just because you can’t see any bed bugs doesn’t mean they are not there, though. To protect yourself from bites, cover any exposed skin with long pants and closed-toe shoes. Wrapping your carry-on luggage with a plastic bag or another type of sealed case can prevent hitch-hiking critters, too.

If you do manage to make it home with no bed bugs in sight, you are not off the hook quite yet. Beg bugs can’t fly or jump, so they often stow away inside of suitcases and backpacks. Unpack your luggage outside after a flight, inspecting your items one by one for any sign of bed bugs. And to do away with any hidden pests, Dr. Green suggests washing and drying all of your blankets, pillows, and clothes on high heat for 20 to 30 minutes.

Still, don’t let a fear of bed bugs keep you from sitting back and relaxing at 35,000 feet. Frequent fliers can rest assured that it “would be quite rare to have a high-level infestation on an airplane these days due to the sanitation schedules of airlines and the awareness of these blood-feeding hitchhikers,” Dr. Green said. Check out the 16 secrets bed bugs don’t want you to know, but are crucial for keeping them at bay.