The French government is to hold emergency meetings this week to tackle the “scourge” of bedbugs hitting Paris, as thousands of rugby fans descend on the city for Ireland and Scotland’s World Cup clash.
Bedbugs have been a growing concern in France in recent months and years. This has now been compounded by the Rugby World Cup and the looming Paris 2024 Olympics.
The tiny insects feed on blood and can leave painful bite marks, rashes and itchiness on human skin. They are 5mm in size and visible to the naked eye.
There are reports of people being bitten by the critters in unexpected locations like cinemas and trains. While many of these reports are unconfirmed, the French government is now taking them seriously.
One in ten French households experienced infestations between 2017 and 2022.
The French Health Ministry has advised travellers to inspect their hotel beds and said that people should be careful when purchasing used furniture and mattresses.
Paris is not the only affected city. Schools in Marseille and Villefranch-sur-Saone, near Lyon, have closed for disinfecting after confirmed outbreaks.
The aim of the government meetings is to “quantify the situation and strengthen the measures. We want to inform on the actions undertaken and act in the service of travellers to reassure and protect,” France’s Transport Ministry has said.
Jean-Michel Berenger, a French expert on bedbugs, told the BBC that while they are to be taken seriously, panic is not the answer.
“Every late summer we see a big increase in bedbugs. That is because people have been moving about over July and August, and they bring them back in their luggage. And each year, the seasonal increase is bigger than the last one,” he said.
“Having bedbugs is no laughing matter, but there are a lot of far-fetched stories out there, about how easily they can spread from A to B.
“In my view the way to tackle bedbugs is not to target everyone, but to go for super-spreaders – They are often marginalised, poor, mentally ill, and with little access to social services,” added Berenger.
Berenger also explained that bedbugs can seriously impact mental health, as life becomes extremely difficult for those living with infestations.