bedbug infestation paris france

bedbug infestation paris france

City of Lumière or City of Nibbles? France Grapples with Bedbug Concerns Ahead of Olympics.

With the Olympic Games in Paris less than a year away, French authorities find themselves facing increased scrutiny due to a series of highly publicized reports of bedbug infestations.

bedbug infestation paris france
image credit: cnn

 

A vial containing some bedbugs became a focal point in the lower house of Parliament when an opposition lawmaker, Mathilde Panot, used it to highlight what she called “spreading despair” across the country. In response, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne urged restraint while promising decisive government action against the bedbugs.

These tiny creatures, now a hot topic in France, gained notoriety through viral social media posts depicting them crawling on public transportation seats, in cinemas, and on subway systems. Consequently, bedbug photos have inundated newspaper headlines, and television talk shows have been endlessly discussing the issue, stoking nationwide unease, if not outright alarm, especially in the capital city.

bedbug infestation paris france

Leila Bername, 74, who had never previously concerned herself with bedbugs, expressed her newfound fear, stating, “I’m afraid to go to the cinema,” as she stood on the Champs-Élysées, a place she often visited with her teenage granddaughters on Wednesdays. She added, “Hopefully, this won’t tarnish France’s reputation.”

While evidence of a widespread bedbug epidemic is mostly anecdotal, experts suggest that these pests have resurged in households in Paris, New York, and other cities due to increased international travel and the bugs’ growing resistance to pesticides, even after they were nearly eradicated in the mid-20th century.

bedbug infestation paris france

The lead-up to the Olympics invariably triggers concerns about a host country’s readiness – smog in China, water pollution in Brazil, security in Greece – and now, with less than a year to go before Paris hosts the Summer Games, the sudden focus on bedbugs has given rise to opposition demands for action against what they fear might turn the City of Light into the City of Bites.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government has been compelled to hold a series of high-level meetings this week to assure the world that Paris remains bedbug-free. Olivier Véran, the government’s spokesman, emphasized the need to provide the French public with answers, acknowledging that the full extent of the problem remained unclear. New measures would be announced after a cabinet meeting on Friday, he said.

While concerns over bedbugs have surfaced recently – with cinema-goers in Paris reporting bites and pictures or videos of purported bedbugs in public transportation – Clément Beaune, the French transportation minister, revealed that none of the cases reported to the Paris Metro or France’s national railway company had been confirmed after investigation. He emphasized that buses, trains, and subways were regularly cleaned and taken out of circulation if any suspicion arose. However, he also cautioned against succumbing to unwarranted panic or anxiety.

Nonetheless, a few schools have closed temporarily, one hospital in northern France underwent intensive treatment, and even BFMTV, a leading news channel, had a bedbug-detection dog inspect its set on live television.

bedbug infestation paris france

A poll commissioned by France’s official Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety estimated that over 10 percent of French households were infested with bedbugs between 2017 and 2022. A pest control trade group reported a 65 percent increase in responses to bedbug infestations last summer compared to the previous year.

bedbug infestation paris france

Johanna Fite, an expert with the government health agency, noted that infestations had been on the rise since the 2000s due to increased globalization, which has led tourists and travelers to transport bedbugs across continents. She stressed that bedbugs were not a sign of poor hygiene and, while they were a nuisance that disrupted sleep and caused severe anxiety, they did not transmit diseases. However, she acknowledged that social media had significantly magnified the problem in recent weeks.

bedbug infestation paris france

As a response to the growing concerns, Emmanuel Grégoire, the deputy mayor of Paris, urged the government to develop a plan to address the surge in infestations, especially in hotels, holiday rentals, public transport, cinemas, and other public spaces. He proposed measures such as subsidizing the pest-control costs for affected households, as the average expenditure for bedbug removal in France is nearly 900 euros, a substantial sum for lower-income families.

bedbug infestation paris france

Ms. Panot, a member of the leftist France Unbowed party, described bedbugs as “a national public health issue” and called for the creation of a free public pest-control service. The government, however, pointed out that it had already announced an anti-bedbug plan last year, primarily focused on awareness campaigns and improved government coordination. Lawmakers from President Macron’s party also pledged to introduce their own bill in December, although its specific content remained uncertain.

bedbug infestation paris france

Some observers found the swift political reaction somewhat exaggerated. Rémi Godeau, editor-in-chief of the newspaper L’Opinion, wrote that the same level of mobilization should be seen on issues like debt, taxation, or reindustrialization. He humorously remarked that “the world’s sixth-largest power is reeling from benign bites.”

bedbug infestation paris france

Stéphane Bras, a spokesperson for CS3D, a pest control trade group, appreciated the increased awareness of bedbugs but noted that attention had been disproportionately focused on public spaces that were not as infested as private homes. Nevertheless, he reassured that there was no reason for panic ahead of the Olympics.

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