Away from the glamor of Paris’ ongoing Fashion Week, French officials have warned of a “widespread” outbreak of bedbugs across public spaces in the capital. With tourists expected to flock to the city next year for the 2024 Olympics, concerns about health and safety implications are rising.
Transport Minister Clement Beaune has vowed to “reassure and protect” the public by convening a meeting of public transport operators this week to establish countermeasures against the blood-sucking pests which have been spotted in cinemas, at Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, and on public transportation.
Deputy Mayor of Paris Emmanuel Gregoire wrote a letter on behalf of City Hall Thursday, calling on Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne to take action against the “scourge.”
“The state urgently needs to put an action plan in place against this scourge as France is preparing to welcome the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2024,” Grégoire wrote, according to Reuters.
Despite being firm in his requests, the deputy mayor cautioned against “hysteria,” adding that there is “no threat to the Olympic Games,” and they should all work together to solve the issue. He added: “Bedbugs existed before and they will exist afterward.”
On Friday, Gregoire categorized the rise in bedbugs as “widespread,” telling French TV station LCI that “no one is safe.” He added: “Obviously there are risk factors but in reality, you can catch bed bugs anywhere and bring them home.”
Transport operators, including RATP, the metro operator in Paris, have said they remain “extremely vigilant” but there have been no more recent sightings since a suspected sighting on line 8 of the metro was reported on Wednesday, according to The Local France. RATP told the outlet 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.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, bedbugs are flat, parasitic insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals while they sleep. Infestations occur in all parts of the world, but particularly in areas where people are asleep, such as mattress seams, bed frames, cracks and curves, or behind wallpaper.
Bedbugs often occur in places where a lot of travel takes place as their bodies allow them to fit into crevices in luggage and clothing. Hygiene is not a determining factor in any case. While the pests are not known for carrying diseases, they can cause skin irritation. Those experiencing symptoms from bedbug bites are advised to wash clothing and fabrics at high temperature and contact pest control services to treat their home.
France’s problem is far from a new one. Bedbugs were much more common in France before they effectively disappeared in the 1950s. But a rise in global travel accessibility led to a surge in the 1990s. Three years ago, the government launched its anti-bedbug efforts, comprising an informational website and telephone hotline amid surging infestation. By last year, the French government agency ANSES reported that 11% of French households had experienced bedbugs at some point in the years between 2017 and 2022, adding that such occurrences were not linked to wealth.