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Lice or bed bugs on the Camino

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
One way to prevent the spread of lice/bed bugs/mange on the camino is to follow the practise of the Scottish Youth Hostel Association. One of their rules is that hikers only use bedding provided by the hostel. They do not allow hikers to use their own sleeping bags for health and safety reasons.
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I'm a little unclear about what kind of bugs people are talking about. Are there both bedbugs and lice? I've seen both referred to in different postings. I don't know much about bugs, but a little websurfing suggests there's a huge difference between body lice and bedbugs.

If there are body lice, one source I found (on the University of Florida's extension website) said: "Presence of the body louse is of great concern because it is the vector of several human diseases. Epidemic typhus, trench fever, and epidemic relapsing fever (louse-borne typhus) are all transmitted by the body louse." So this could be very serious. If they are only bedbugs, it looks like the health dangers are minimal, aside from the bad skin reactions people have described.

I know that the GR 65 in France had a similar problem a couple of years ago, and one gite that I stayed in last summer (the municipal gite in Auvillar) had essentially decided that things were so bad that the only way to get rid of the bugs was to gut the entire gite and start over. The result is a beautiful, clean, renovated gite, but I'm sure that option is way out of reach for a lot of the refugios in Spain.

Having walked the Camino Frances 4 times and stayed in many of the refugios, both public and private, I have to say that I was not at all surprised to read, for instance, that the refugio in Hornillos was infested. The real question is how did they avoid an infestation for so long with such completely unsanitary conditions. Some of these places are so dirty they should not be allowed to offer accommodations at all, in my opinion. I know this sounds like anal, sterile, cold-hearted words and I myself have frequently found the other warm and fuzzy human connection aspects of the Camino to more than adequately offset the otherwise unacceptable dirtiness. But if the public health consequences get much more serious, the Spanish government will have to take some serious action. I know they have been trying to do something at San Juan de Ortega, but have met with incredible resistance from the Church. Over the years that I've been walking, I've seen some gites open up spanking clean and new, only to disintegrate into poorly maintained and rarely cleaned refugios. The municipal refugio in Azofra comes to mind. Maybe an epidemic like the one that seems to be emerging will bring about a concerted effort to clean these places up. I really hope so.
 
they are bedbugs - chinches in Spanish - not lice. I contacted the journalist at the Guardian who wrote the article that Ivar reported, and he admitted it was an error. It seems the bedbug outbreak started in France, and spread to Spain. One has to assume that pilgrims spread it. I very much agree with you on the (lack of) cleanliness in some of the albergues; some of the gites in France are even worse - have not been cleaned for years.

There seems now to be a serious infestation in both France and Spain, and it's hard to see how it's going to be cleaned up other than by a coordinated shutdown of all the infected places over the winter - possibly even preventing pilgrims from walking for a certain period unless they've been thoroughly debugged. And yes the authorities are taking the situation seriously. Particularly for Spain, this is very bad publicity, because the Camino has become such an important part of the local economy.
 

michael

Member
vox populi?

I would hate to stir up any ill feeling but should we create a list of places to avoid for those planning their trip?
 
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Ulysse

Active Member
I completed the Camino Frances on Sept 30 and experienced bed bugs for the first time in my life... not pleasant at all.

Along the way at least one municipal albergue was forcing people to leave by 6 am so they coud begin cleaning and fumigation. This happend in Castrojeriz.

I caught this irritating stuff in a good private albergue located after Astorga at Murias de Rechivaldo. Too bad because it was really nicely kept. The rash appeared that afternoon and lasted for 3 or 4 days.

It is true that some albergues should be closed and be cleaned and repainted. I found this especially true in Galicia where I have met some of the worst conditions. The persons responsible open the place at 13 or 13:30 hr, maintain the register but I never saw them using a broom. In one albergue it was so untidy that some pilgrims did some cleaning up themselves!
 

beckany

New Member
We're walking this winter (DEC/JAN) bugs or no bugs. My concern is that we may not be able to find out until we arrive which albergues may be closed because of the outbreak. Being in the winter, I know the albergue selection is already more limited, and we have planned our walks around the albergues which are open year round.

I agree with the idea of a posted list, in that it would inform those who are walking as to which places are open (or bug free!) and it would also inform those who choose not to stay with the bugs which albergues are contaminated.
 

Jupp

New Member
Ulysse said:
I completed the Camino Frances on Sept 30 and experienced bed bugs for the first time in my life... not pleasant at all.

Along the way at least one municipal albergue was forcing people to leave by 6 am so they coud begin cleaning and fumigation. This happend in Castrojeriz.

I caught this irritating stuff in a good private albergue located after Astorga at Murias de Rechivaldo. Too bad because it was really nicely kept. The rash appeared that afternoon and lasted for 3 or 4 days.

It is true that some albergues should be closed and be cleaned and repainted. I found this especially true in Galicia where I have met some of the worst conditions. The persons responsible open the place at 13 or 13:30 hr, maintain the register but I never saw them using a broom. In one albergue it was so untidy that some pilgrims did some cleaning up themselves!

The same problem happened to me end of August in Roncevalles, about 30-40 bites on neck, shoulder and face, and I kept hem for 2-3 weeks, after a pharmacist gave me antiallergy-pills. Never had this problems before. But it seems that this "animals" remain on the bed, we checked later on with the hospitalero in Obanos sleeping-bag and clothes, but they were clean. Had no more problems later on on the way.
 

marjoleen

New Member
Hello all,

I'm just returned in the Neherlands from the Camino, 20 september I started in St. Jean Pied de Port and I stopped in Astorga.
I can confirme there are real problems in the albergues! I've seen many people with red itchy spots, some of them didn't mind, some of them felt a little bit sick of it.
I didn't have the problems myself, because I was warned for it by internet just before I left. So I brought a special sheet with me (mitecare: that's special for allergic people, nothing can go through this) The weight of half a pound was worth it!
And I decided to choose for the private refugio's when possible, but that's not a garantee: the pilgrims have spread the bugs to the private ones too.
But don't forget there are some good and clean albergues too: for example L'esprit du chemin in St. JPDP, the refugio in Orrison, Emmaus in Burgos was great, in Roncevalles they washed the bedsheets every day, and in Astorga (from the Association) Maria Servaas was very clean, I saw them cleaning all used beds every day!
In Tosantos and Rabe de la Calzadas the refugio's were closed because the Spain government ordered them to fumigate. I think it's a immense problem for Spain to root out definitely, but at least they try to do something about it.
Sometimes I toke a hostal or casa rural, but that's more expensive and not a real pilgrimage....
I really liked the walking, to meet all the interesting people, the spiritual and religius aspects, but I did not feel comfortabel with the sleeping.
I want to finish my camino once, but I'll wait untill this problem is solved, or maybe go with a tent?

bye, marjoleen
 

bpondugula

Active Member
Dear all

I did my camino from Pedrafita (ocebreiro) and completed it Friday last, and i stayed in private and publc albergues. I was a bit worried about the bugs , but was lucky not to be bitten by them

Regards
 
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Bootless

New Member
Tell the manager

The best way to get rid of the bed bugs is to inform the manager.

Many pilgrims think is is rude to complain and remain silent. But this only aggravates the problem.

If you do come across any unusual insects in the dormitories, inform the management. No need to be rude. No need to kick up a stink, No need to play Absolutely Disgusted. State the facts and Buen Camino !
 

Lupita Tequila

New Member
a little spray goes a long way!

Greetings everyone,

I finished the Camino the end of October, and yes, there was a bit of a bug problem... some pilgrims took offense when arriving at some refugios and were asked to spray their mochilas with desinfectant....as if it was meant as a personal insult.... which it wasn't... I spoke to many pilgrims and reminded them that at least a 100,000 of us (at least on the Camino Frances) stay at refugios and there was bound to be a problem.... Most of the hospitaleros want to be notified of a problem, should there be one and what my daughter and I did was purchase a spray bottle at a chemist/pharmacy/hardware store and we would spray our backpacks inside and out (the least we could do considering how many times we threw our backpacks in the ground to rest)..... Many hospitaleros were grateful we were doing our little part in keeping further infestation at bay... We also used it to spray around the bed (when we did not disturb anyone) and we came back without any bites.

Just a thought to keep in mind,

Ultreia and buen Camino! :arrow:

Lupita
 

beckany

New Member
Are there any recent updates on the bed bug situation? Has the cold weather driven them off or is it still an issue? We are starting in SJPdP on December 20th and would just like to know! Thanks.
 

Magnara

Maggie Ramsay
Year of past OR future Camino
Santiago de Compostela (2005) Via Francigena (2010) Le Puy to St Jean (2014)
We are also starting in SJPP soon, on Dec 26. Iasked my daughter how to enquire about bedbugs without giving offense. Here is her reply:

I would say:
“Disculpame mucho por preguntar:
(Forgive me a lot for asking)

Tengo noticias de una plaga de bichus (or chinches) en esta parte de Espana ultimamente
(I have heard of a bug (or bed bug) plague in this parte of Spain lately)

Y me gustaria saber si hay chinches aqui
(and I would like to know if there are bed bugs here)

Perdoname de nuevo por preguntar”
Pardon me again for asking)

I know that is quite long – its hard to be rude quickly in Spanish, let alone apologetic!

This is another option:

“Disculpame mucho por preguntar pero hay chinches aqui? No es mi intencion de ofenderte. Nosotros no tenemos chinches”

(Forgive me a lot for asking, but are there any bed bugs here? I don’t mean any offence. We don’t have bed bugs.)

Not a question I ever thought I would have to ask, how medieval! But then again, it IS the camino.

Probably won't see you on the road, Beckany, you're just a bit too far ahead in starting date, but I will look for you in the Albergue books. Buen Camino
Magnara
 
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lynnejohn

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances(2005), VDLP(2007), Madrid(2009), Ingles(2009), Sur (2011), VDLP(2011)-partial, VDLP(2014)
Thanks very much for your tips, all of you who provided them, particularly for the translations that you provided, Magnara. We completed the Frances last year and will be walking the Via de la Plata next year, so your kind assistance will be of great help to us!

Gracias

lynne and john
 

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