Crisis talks are underway in France, where a bedbug infestation is spreading.
Paris residents have reported bedbugs on trains, in movie theatres, and at airports, while outbreaks in Lyon and Marseilles have forced school closures.
It comes as the country hosts the Rugby World Cup and prepares for the 2024 Paris Olympics. ‘
Punaises de lit’, the French word for bedbugs, is trending on social media.
Bedbugs are tiny parasites, around 5mm long, that live in places like mattresses and couches.
They feed on human blood, mainly at night, after which point they become larger in size and darker in colour. Newborn bedbugs are barely visible to humans.
According to France’s Health Department, by the time an bedbug infestation is detected, the outbreak may already be “quite significant”.
A recent study found more than one in 10 French households had a bedbug problem, with infestations on the rise.
France’s bedbug infestation
Deputy Mayor of Paris Emmanuel Grégoire told French TV the bedbug infestation is “widespread”. He wants a Government task force to be established to manage the outbreak.
“You have to understand that in reality no one is safe, obviously there are risk factors but in reality, you can catch bedbugs anywhere and bring them home,” he said.
Grégoire urged the Government to put an “action plan” in place ahead of the Paris Olympics in June.
France’s government’s response
This week, the French Government said it would hold a meeting with multiple Cabinet Ministers to discuss the best ways to take action. It came after an opposition MP brought a small plastic vial of bedbugs to a sitting to raise awareness of the issue.
Transport Minister Clément Beaune is meeting with public transport and airport operators to discuss measures to tackle the bedbug infestation this week.
However, Health Minister Aurelien Rousseau told a local radio station there was “no reason” for panic. “We haven’t been invaded by bedbugs,” he said.
There is now growing concern of the outbreak crossing international borders.
Local media in Morocco reported bedbugs on board a ship from Marseille.
A passenger on board a Eurostar train from London to Paris posted images of what look like bedbugs to social media last week.