With the Paris Olympics less than a year away, French authorities are determined not to let the bed bugs bite during the games and have started a drive to exterminate the pests from public transport, cinemas and other places.
In recent weeks, social media have published footage of bed bugs crawling around in high-speed TGV trains and the Paris metro, and an association that helps travellers withdrew from the waiting area at the Paris Charles de Gaulle over bedbug reports.
Media have also cited numerous reports of movie fans being bitten in cinemas.
Next week, Transport Minister Clement Beaune will meet with public transport operators to discuss how to handle the bedbug problem, Beaune said in a statement on X on Friday (September 29).
At the Gare de Lyon train station, travellers were not too sanguine about government efforts to eradicate the blood-sucking insects.
“I’m not serene. I’ll keep my luggage closed to prevent (bed bugs) from getting to my home … once I get home, I’ll have to wash all my clothes. We are really becoming paranoid,” said Laura Mmadi, a sales worker who was travelling to the south of France on Thursday, September 28.
Coming into Paris from Nice, traveller Sophie Ruscica said she had inspected her seat closely for creepy crawlies and found none, but was worried nonetheless.
In a report published in July, health and food agency Anses said that between 2017 and 2022, bed bugs had infected more than one in 10 French households.
“Bed bugs have always been there, the only difference is that right now the issue is being talked about a lot in the media, so everyone is panicking a bit,” pest control store manager Sacha Krief said, adding that his sales for anti-bed bug products have gone up by 30 percent in recent weeks.
He added that while the critters are not dangerous, exterminating them and throwing away bedding and furniture is costly and an infestation can affect people’s mental health.
Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire called on insurance companies to integrate bed bug risk in housing insurance policies. He said that often low-income people do not have the means to call in pest control firms, which means that they keep reinfecting nearby apartments.