As France prepares for the Olympics in 2024, not sport-mania but a bedbug infestation is sweeping the nation.
French media is alive with reports of bedbug infestations across public spaces. The capital seems particularly badly affected, according to complaints on social platforms and photographs of the biting critters aboard trains, in hotels, cinemas and, says Euronews, hospitals.
The scale of the problem is such, and the timing ahead of the Olympics so sensitive, that politicians are weighing in and public bodies, transport providers, and private companies, such as train operator SNCF and UCG Cinemas, have been forced to issue statements to try to reassure customers.
Where are the bugs?
Le Figaro reports cinemagoers suffering bedbug bites and seeing the creepy crawlies in the MK2 cinemas in Beaubourg and Bibliothèque, UGC Bercy, and various UGC cinemas in Châtelet-Les-Halles, Noisy-le-Grand.
In the last week of September, three sightings of bedbugs occurred on different SNCF trains. One customer on a Marseille-Paris train complained to a conductor after spotting bedbugs and the whole carriage was offered a refund. SNCF told the news outlet Le Parisien that it undertakes anti-pest treatments regularly and had had no confirmed bedbug sightings for months.
Train operator Ouigo has also been alerted on X of bedbugs on stock, as has the Paris metro – where the bugs were reported by a driver – as well as buses in Lyon, suggesting the problem has spread far beyond the City of Lights.
Vigilance or intervention?
SNCF has promised vigilance, while Paris City Hall has demanded State intervention.
“Bed bugs are a public health problem and should be reported as such,” city Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire, stated in a letter to the republic’s leaders. “The State must urgently bring together all the stakeholders concerned in order to deploy an action plan commensurate with this scourge as the whole of France prepares to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024.”
What’s the lowdown on bedbugs?
Bedbugs do not carry or spread diseases, as commonly thought, but their bites cause itching and discomfort.
Infestations can spread rapidly and require costly high-temperature treatment, freezing or chemical irradication – which is not recommended by experts as bedbugs are becoming resistant to insecticides.
Are infestations common?
In the last five years, 10% of French households, across the socio-economic spectrum, has had an infestation of bedbugs, reports the French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety.
It costs around €866 to carry out a de-bugging. The cost of dealing with an infestation has prompted Grégoire to call for the problem to be underwritten by household insurance policies to help homeowners and communities stay bedbug-free.