‘No One Is Safe’: Bed Bugs Invade Paris Ahead of Olympics

‘No One Is Safe’: Bed Bugs Invade Paris Ahead of Olympics

The city of lights is beset by bed bugs. Sightings of the tiny urban pest in public places throughout Paris have apparently increased as of late, and officials are calling for aggressive action to curtail the menace in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

People have spotted bed bugs along the city’s public transit and at the Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, with some posting videos of their encounters on social media, Reuters reported over the weekend. The situation has gotten so bad that Transport Minister Clement Beaune is set to hold a meeting with public transport operators this week to discuss the issue. And city hall officials have called for the federal government to create a task force to stamp out the bugs.

“The state urgently needs to put an action plan in place against this scourge as France is preparing to welcome the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2024,” wrote Emmanuel Gregoire, the deputy mayor of Paris, in a letter to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne last week. In a Friday post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Gregoire added that “no one is safe” from the blood-sucking menace.

Bed bugs are one of humanity’s most ancient pests, with their origins possibly dating back to the age of the dinosaurs. The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) has likely been plaguing us since before our ancestors left the caves. For a brief time during the mid-20th century, highly effective pesticides nearly drove the nocturnal crawlers to extinction. Unfortunately, this victory was short-lived, as the insects eventually evolved and became incredibly resistant to the most common bug-killing chemicals. This newfound resistance, possibly coupled with increased travel, has fueled their resurgence over the past few decades.

While it’s not clear that bed bug infestations worldwide have increased more recently, they remain a persistent problem. According to a report released by French government agency ANSES earlier this year, more than 10% of households in the country had infestations between 2017 and 2022. These infestations can occur in poor and rich neighbourhoods alike, but poorer people are less able to afford the costly treatments that it often takes to truly eradicate bed bugs in an area.

Bed bugs, despite their stigma, are not currently thought to spread infectious diseases, but their bites cause irritating itches and plenty of misery. Some scientists also theorize that they could raise people’s risk of allergic symptoms via the histamine they poop out, though this is still a speculative concern for now.

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