France has been plagued by bedbugs, with the bloodsucking insects spotted in homes, on public transport, hotels and even at Charles-de-Gaulle Airport in Paris.
Disgusted travellers have taken to social media to share videos of bedbugs crawling over train seats with one clip alone attracting 3.8 million views, as authorities try to combat the infestation ahead of the Olympics in the country’s capital in less than a year.
Transport minister Clement Beaune took to X to explain he was convening representatives from public transport operators next week “to inform them about countermeasures and how to do more for the protection of travellers”.
He said the aim was to “reassure and protect”.
His post came a day after Emmanuel Gregoire, first deputy mayor of Paris, wrote a letter on behalf of City Hall calling on Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne to act on the “scourge”.
“Bed bugs are a public health problem and should be reported as such,” he wrote.
“The state must urgently bring together all concerned in order to enact an action plan appropriate with this scourge as all of France prepares to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024.”
Speaking to French TV station LCI on Friday, Mr Gregoire called the phenomenon “widespread”.
“You have to understand that in reality no one is safe, obviously there are risk factors but in reality, you can catch bedbugs anywhere and bring them home,” he said.
One woman took to TikTok this week saying she was “low-key mortified” to take public transport in Paris.
“If you haven’t been living under a rock (and you’re in Paris), you probably know there is a bedbug fiasco going on, not only in subways but movie theatres and I love going to movie theatres,” the US woman said.
“So it’s quite common to have a bedbug issue in movie theatres, however right now seems as though every single thing in read in the news is about bedbugs in Paris.
“And now I am reading this issue has spread to subways. I am mortified, like ‘what?’”.
“I really have no idea what summer 2024 is going to look like — all I know it’s going to be crowded and the Olympics are going to come and those trains are not gonna (sic).”
Meanwhile, in August, an X (formerly known as Twitter) user posted pictures showing what she said were markings on her body from bed bugs in her seat at a Paris cinema.
The furious woman warned cinemagoers of the infestation and after numerous concerns were raised, the cinema — UGC — posted a letter on September 4 apologising to customers, adding they were putting emergency procedures in place.
Bedbugs, which had largely disappeared from daily life by the 1950s, have made a resurgence in recent years, mostly due to high population densities and more mass transit.
The French capital has copped it the most with one-tenth of all French households believed to have had a bedbug problem over the past few years, according to AFP.
And locals are having to fork hundreds of dollars in pest control that often needs to be repeated.
Mr Gregoire also called on insurers to include bed bug cover in house insurance policies, as low-income people rarely had the means to call in pest control firms.
Paris city hall on Thursday urged President Emmanuel Macron’s government to help with the infestation, including by creating a dedicated task force.
Meanwhile, RATP, the operator behind the Parisian metro, said it is “extremely vigilant on the matter” but there had been no recent sightings, according to CNN.
The company told the publication on Monday that “each sighting is taken into account and is subject to a treatment,” adding that “these last few days, there have been no proven cases of bedbugs recorded in our equipment”.
RATP said a report was made on Wednesday last week but after an assessment “no presence of bedbugs was recorded on the train”.
In 2020, the French government launched an anti-bedbug campaign, which includes a dedicated website and an information hotline.
International travel and increasing resistance to insecticides are to blame for the critters’ resurgence, according to the website.
France’s national health agency recommended people check their hotel beds when travelling and be cautious about bringing second-hand furniture or pre-owned mattresses into their homes.
What are bedbugs
According to Healthdirect Australia, bedbugs are small oval-shaped and flat insects that can grow up to 5mm long.
And while they need to feed on blood to grow, they are resilient and can live for up to a year without a feed.
“Bed bugs tend to live in cracks and crevices in and around your bed, especially in mattress seams and travel on clothing, furniture, bedding and luggage,” the site reads.
“They prefer to feed on humans but will also feed on other warm-blooded animals. They mainly feed at night.”
To help prevent bedbugs it advises to avoiding using second-hand mattresses, regularly check your bed and keep your bedroom tidy to minimise hiding spots.
– with AFP