Paris is usually associated with stunning landmarks, world-class museums, and fancy restaurants. However, lately, France's capital and most populous city has been in the news for an unlikely reason — bed bugs!
What are bed bugs?
Like mosquitoes, bed bugs live on the blood of humans and animals. But unlike mosquitoes, they do not transmit any diseases with their bites. The nocturnal insects hide inside mattress seams, box springs, bed frames, carpets, and other furniture during the day. They feed on their unsuspecting victims at night, leaving behind small, itchy red bites. Bed bugs had largely disappeared by the 1950s. But they have made a resurgence in recent decades, primarily due to high population densities and more mass transit.
How do bed bugs spread?
The insects cannot fly. Instead, they travel by hitching a ride on clothing and luggage. Bed bugs also multiply rapidly. A female adult can lay up to 10 eggs daily and 200-500 eggs in her lifetime.
When did the Paris bed bug problem come to light?
The bed bug infestation in Paris came to light in early September 2023. A series of viral posts on social media showed the pesky insects crawling on hotel mattresses and across the seats of trains and cinemas. Since then, bed bugs have become the topic of discussion everywhere — from television talk shows to the French parliament.
What may have caused the bed bug infestation?
ANSES, the French health and safety agency, blames the recent upsurge in bed bugs on the many visitors that have flocked to Paris since the COVID-19 lockdowns were lifted. In 2022, the city welcomed 22 million tourists!
Additionally, the agency believes this particular bed bug species has mutated into "superbugs." This means they have become resistant to the currently available insecticides, making them harder to kill.
The large number of people visiting Paris has also made it easy for the parasites to spread to nearby countries. Belgium and London are among the many reporting a rise in bed bugs, albeit on a smaller scale.
What is the French government doing to solve the issue?
The French government is asking residents and visitors not to panic. The officials have created a dedicated task force to eliminate the pesky creatures in public places. Residents have been asked to take immediate action to get rid of any bed bugs found in homes. They have also been advised to avoid buying second-hand furniture or pre-owned mattresses.
How can visitors to Paris stop the spread of bed bugs?
Visitors to Paris should ask hotels if they have had a bed bug infestation. They should also use luggage racks when unpacking and examine all suitcases before leaving the country. In addition, experts recommend washing all travel clothing in hot water upon returning home.
Resources: CNNtraveler.com, Newscientist.com, France24.com, theGuardian.com