The city of light is going to war against a “scourge” of bed bugs that have been spotted and filmed in various public places around Paris.
Residents have been taking to social media in recent days to share footage of the blood-sucking pests crawling over seats in the Paris metro and high-speed trains. There are also reports of bed bugs being spotted in cinemas and even at Charles de Gaulle airport.
The furor over the bed bugs infestation started during Paris Fashion Week and now threatens to put a damper on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics — only 10 months away — if officials aren’t able to get the pests under control.
“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,” the capital’s deputy mayor, Emmanuel Gregoire, said in a letter to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne this week.
“Bedbugs are a public health issue and should be declared as such,” he wrote.
Gregoire added in a social media post that “no one is safe” from the bed bug infestation. He told French broadcaster LCI that the problem is “widespread” and residents are in danger of bringing bed bugs home if they encounter them in public.
Transport Minister Clement Beaune said on Friday he will discuss the issue with transport operators next week, vowing to “reassure and protect” the public.
About one in 10 French households are believed to have had a bed bug infestation over the past few years, AFP reports. Extermination and fumigation often costs several hundreds of dollars.
Deputy Mayor Grégoire says Paris is helping lower-income households to cover the cost of extermination, but he is calling on home insurance companies to “do their part” in supporting residents.
At the Paris Gare de Lyon train station, travellers said they doubted whether authorities would be able to get on top of the problem.
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“I’m worried about it. I’ll keep my luggage closed to stop (bed bugs) getting into my home. Once I get home, I’ll have to wash all my clothes,” Laura Mmadi, a sales worker heading to the south of France said.
Coming into Paris from Nice, Sophie Ruscica said she had inspected her seat closely for any signs of the insects.
“It stressed me out. I had to take the train and I wondered whether I would find bed bugs. But then again, one can find them in cinemas and just about everywhere,” she said.
“Everyone is panicking,” pest control store manager Sacha Krief said. “People can really get depressed, even paranoid over it.”
In early 2023, Orkin Canada released its annual list of the top 25 “bed buggiest” cities in Canada for 2022:
C’est une tragédie, non?
— With files from Reuters and Global News’ Ryan Rocca