What to do if the Paris infection spreads to the UK

FThe recent panic over a bed bug outbreak in Paris has led to concerns that London may also be facing a bed bug infestation. On Monday, October 30, Ealing Central Library in west London was closed for fumigation after insects were found in its equipment. Pest control companies in the capital are reportedly being “inundated” with calls about bed bugs.

Bed bugs are easy to carry home on clothing and luggage, but they are becoming increasingly difficult to get rid of because they have developed resistance to pesticides. The issue has raised concerns in Paris, which is preparing to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer. Here's what you need to know about what happened there and whether we can expect to see more bed bugs in the UK.

Where in the UK are bed bugs common?

Bed bugs are not a new problem in the UK. Although there is no conclusive data on which areas of the country are affected, anecdotal evidence from pest control companies suggests that the pests can occur almost anywhere.

In general, bed bug infestations tend to affect large cities most severely. This is because large populations live in close proximity. The movement of people in large cities, including people visiting for work and leisure, is increasing, and this may contribute to the spread of infection.

A busy night at Piccadilly station: There are reports of bed bugs on London public transport (Alamy)

A busy night at Piccadilly Station: There are reports of bed bugs on London public transport (Alamy)

Are bed bugs on the rise in the UK?

Yes, the incidence of bed bugs is increasing. Rentokil says that from the second quarter of 2022 to the second quarter of 2023, the prevalence in the UK increased by 65%. Other pest control companies are also receiving more calls about bed bugs.

However, not all calls turned out to be for bed bugs. Other insects such as fleas, ticks, and ticks are often mistaken for bed bugs. In some cases, it was not found at all.

Does London have a bed bug problem?

Again, there is no definitive data on the number of bed bug infestations in London. However, the insects have reportedly been sighted on public transport in recent weeks, leading to an increase in calls from exterminators.

London buses and underground trains are cleaned every night (Getty Images)

London buses and underground trains are cleaned every night (Getty Images)

What does the Mayor of London say?

London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the potential for bed bugs to spread across London's transport network was “a real cause for concern” and had consulted with Transport for London (TfL) to ensure regular cleaning of buses and trains. said.

Furthermore, he added: . . It means TfL has the best structure in place to clean our assets every night. We are talking with our friends in Paris to see if there are any lessons to be learned, but for various reasons we don't think this will happen in London. But TfL is not complacent. ”

What did Eurostar say?

Eurostar will disinfect suspected infected trains between Paris and London after a sudden rise in bed bugs in the French capital. This is in addition to regular cleaning.

The railway company said: “The safety and health of our customers is always our top priority and the presence of insects such as bed bugs on our trains is extremely rare. The textile surfaces of all our trains are regularly cleaned. It has been thoroughly cleaned, including hot water injection and extraction cleaning, which has proven to be highly effective in removing insects.

“All reports of hygiene issues are taken very seriously and in addition to regular cleaning, our cleaning teams will also disinfect trains upon request or as soon as there is any doubt.

“We also plan to introduce preventive care across our network.”

Pest control shop in Paris (Getty Images)

Pest control shop in Paris (Getty Images)

How serious is the bed bug infestation in Paris?

Suspected sightings of bed bugs have been reported in movie theaters, subway seats in the city and Charles de Gaulle Airport. However, the intrusion is not limited to these spaces; private homes, hotels, and Airbnbs have also been affected. Paris' deputy mayor, Emmanuel Grégoire, told French television station LCI that the problem was “widespread.”

Other parts of France are also affected. In a report released in July 2023, France's Food, Environment and Occupational Health and Safety Agency Ansu said that between 2017 and 2022, more than one in 10 French households were affected by bed bugs. Ta.

Are bed bugs common in Paris?

Like other large cities, Paris is susceptible to bed bug infestations and has had them in the past. However, Professor Anthes says bed bugs have increased in recent years due to increased international travel and the fact that insects are becoming more resistant to pesticides, which is why chemical treatments can only be used as a last resort. This is one of the reasons why it should be used. Resort.

Weather may also have exacerbated the problem, as rising temperatures speed up the reproductive cycles of these insects.

L'Oriole-sur-Dromme's Fête des Bouviers celebrates the upcoming Paris Olympics (Getty Images)

L'Oriole-sur-Dromme's Fête des Bouviers celebrates the upcoming Paris Olympics (Getty Images)

Could bed bugs affect next year's Paris Olympics?

Grégoire ruled out the possibility of bed bugs affecting the 2024 Olympics, saying: “Bed bugs have always existed and will continue to exist.” But he said the event was an “opportunity” for everyone to work together to solve problems.

The bed bug problem is being addressed by the French government. French Transport Minister Clément Beaune held a crisis meeting on Wednesday, October 4, to discuss how the situation can be resolved as French transport companies investigate and address reports of bedbugs. .

How can I tell if my hotel or Airbnb is affected by bed bugs?

If you're traveling to an area where bed bugs are common, it's a good idea to do a quick check for bed bugs before leaving your luggage or belongings on upholstered surfaces. You can also check for mentions of bed bugs in recent reviews from previous guests.

If you're already out and about and you're worried about bringing bed bugs home, put your belongings in a plastic bag, suggests Anna Roberts, founder of Explorage.com.

“Simply put, bed bugs hate plastic,” she says. “There's no way for them to grab it and move it, and they can't chew through plastic. Therefore, place all items, including backpacks, in sealed plastic bags before bringing them into your home. A pack bag is best.

Once you get home, you can immediately put it in the freezer without worrying about contaminating other things (more on that later).

Stairs in apartment complexes in Paris: Homes, hotels and Airbnbs are infested with bedbugs (Alamy)

Stairs in apartment complexes in Paris: Homes, hotels and Airbnbs are infested with bed bugs (Alamy)

How can I avoid getting bed bugs in Paris?

If you are staying at a property where the virus is suspected, please zip or tightly seal your luggage and avoid contact with the floor. Try to keep items on top of your dresser or wardrobe. The higher the better. For added protection, you can also place your clothing in separate sealed plastic bags in your luggage.

It is equally important to avoid leaving clothes on the floor, bed, and upholstery. If you leave clothing unattended, shake it out thoroughly and inspect it for bed bugs. Pay attention to seams in clothing, gaps and crevices in furniture, and always check under mattresses and sheets.

How do you find bed bugs?

Adult bed bugs are usually 5 to 7 mm in size and can be seen with the naked eye.

They are easy to spot on the edge of a seat or in a crevice, as there are few places to hide on public transport, but they can be difficult to spot in a hotel room. As the name suggests, their favorite hiding place is their bed, so that's where you should start.

For a thorough check, you should remove the sheets and look at the mattress, especially any seams or gaps that may be hidden. You should also be on the lookout for lots of small black dots, which could be bed bug droppings. Bloodstains are also an obvious sign, but if you see bloodstains, you may want to move for hygiene reasons even if there are no bed bugs.

Bed bugs generally prefer upholstered surfaces, so you should also check sofas, chairs, and curtains in the room. If you have carpet, it's worth taking a quick look there too, using your phone's flashlight if necessary.

Bedbugs spotted on the Paris subway (Alamy)

Bedbugs spotted on the Paris subway (Alamy)

How do you get rid of bed bugs?

When bed bugs first enter your home, it is often possible to treat the problem yourself. Clothing and bedding should be washed at high temperatures. Place non-washable fabrics in a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes or in the freezer for at least 4 days. If freezing items, make sure the temperature is below 0°C.

You'll need to remove any fabric covers from your bed, sofa, or chair, whether it's bedding or throws. Next, you need to vacuum the exposed surfaces thoroughly and remove the contents of the vacuum when you're done.

When bed bugs become infested in your home, you may need to call in a professional to deal with the problem. Although there are chemical treatments available for purchase, they usually cannot be applied to bedding because they can cause allergic reactions.

A sign advertising bed bug extermination in Manhattan, New York (Alamy)

A sign advertising bed bug extermination in Manhattan, New York (Alamy)

Which countries in the world are seeing a rapid increase in bed bugs?

Paris is currently in the spotlight as it hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024, but this is not the first time the city has had a bed bug problem. In fact, France launched a bed bug hotline in 2020 to tackle the problem nationwide.

However, bed bugs can move anywhere. Small enough to hide in crevices and able to survive for months without food, the female lays over 100 of her eggs at a time. And with more people traveling and warmer weather allowing insects to breed faster, bed bug infestations are on the rise in many countries. These tend to primarily affect large cities with high population densities.

For example, in the United States, the pest control company Orkin ranks Chicago as the city most plagued by bed bugs, based on the number of calls received. New York City follows, followed by Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., in the top 10.

What do airlines say?

France's national carrier Air France said it had not had any accidents on its planes “in recent years”.

“The airline applies strict procedures and follows the recommendations of the WHO (World Health Organization) and French authorities when it comes to insect control,” a spokesperson said. This means the aircraft is cleaned between flights and thoroughly disinfected every 45 days.

Additionally, “Air France has also put in place procedures to deal with reports of suspected bed bugs. In the event of such a report, the aircraft will be grounded and a specialist team will be dispatched immediately to confirm the presence of these insects. or will be eliminated. If the presence of bed bugs is confirmed, chemical treatment of the aircraft will be carried out by a duly accredited service provider in accordance with procedures validated by public health authorities.”

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Additional reporting by Cathy Adams

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