Paris battles infestation of bloodsucking bugs as France prepares for 2024 Olympics

Paris is battling a major bedbug infestation, with reports of the bloodsucking pests being spotted in the French capital’s cinemas, on trains, and at Charles-de-Gaulle Airport.

Videos posted on social media appear to show the tiny insects crawling over seats on a commuter train and on the Paris metro.

Last month, a cinema-goer posted images on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, of the angry-looking bites she said she suffered after attending a Paris cinema.

UGC Cinemas posted a letter this month apologising to customers and outlined planned emergency procedures, which included high-temperature steam treatment and inspections carried out by specially trained dogs.

The French authorities are under pressure to tackle the problem ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics, which is due to take place next summer. The Games are expected to attract 15 million spectators.

To get rid of bedbugs, a thorough cleaning of the infested area is essential, while a specialised pest control service may be needed. Photo: AFP

“Faced with the scourge of bedbugs, we must act,” Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire wrote on X earlier this week. “I ask the Prime Minister @Elisabeth_Borne to organise a conference on the fight against invasive species. This is a public health problem where all stakeholders must be brought to the table.”

The French transport minister Clement Beaune said on Friday he would assemble transport operators next week to discuss the actions to “reassure and protect” passengers.

French authorities raided the 2024 Paris Olympics headquarters on June 20.

Bedbugs are small wingless insects, around 5 to 7 millimetres long, that feed on the blood of humans and animals. Often found in bedding and furniture, they can easily travel on clothing and luggage. While they are not necessarily considered dangerous or spreaders of disease, their bites can cause itchy spots.

Insecticide is sprayed against bedbugs on a sofa bed near Paris on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

More than one in 10 French households was infested by bed bugs between 2017 and 2022, according to Anses, the French Agency for Food, Environmental, and Occupational Health and Safety.

Anses said the recent uptick in bedbug infestations was due to the rise in travel and bedbugs’ increasing resistance to insecticides.

Anses calculated that the cost of bedbug infestations to the nation’s health was 83 million euros, or US$87.8 million, in 2019. That comprised 79 million euros associated with a decline in quality of life, sleep disorders, and the impact to mental health, 1 million euros connected with time taken off work, and 3 million euros toward the cost of physical care.

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