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Paris is crawling with bedbugs. They're even riding the trains and a ferry.

Paris suffering severe bedbug outbreak
Paris suffering severe bedbug outbreak 01:40

Paris — Just 10 months before the opening of the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, the French capital is battling an invasion of bedbugs.

The tiny pests were first reported in hotels and vacation rental apartments across the city during the summer. Then there were sightings in movie theaters and, in recent days, there have even been reports of bedbugs crawling around on seats in both national high-speed trains and the Paris Metro system.

One metro train driver was dismayed to find some of the unwelcome guests in his driver's cabin.

A suspected bedbug is seen crawling on the armrest of a train travelling between Paris and Lille, France, in a photo posted online by X user "LaTogolaise." Reuters/TWITTER/@_LaTogolaise

Horrified train passengers have shared videos of the insects on social media, prompting many travelers to pay extra attention before they sit down or drop fabric bags or coats on the floor at their feet. One person told followers that passengers were "panicking" when they realized there were bedbugs in the train carriage, and they couldn't get off until the next station.

Some even jumped ship — to Morocco. 

Port authorities in Tangiers found bedbugs on a passenger ferry that arrived from Marseille in southern France on Monday after the alert was raised during the Mediterranean crossing. It was the first time Moroccan officials had noted bedbugs from France on the move and, upon arrival in Tangiers, passengers had to wait while the ship and its cargo were cleaned and disinfected before they were permitted to disembark.

Moroccan media outlets reported that Tangiers port and health authorities had put in place additional monitoring protocols after the ferry arrived to detect and prevent the spread of bedbugs from any further vessels arriving from France.

Paris companies specializing in treating insect infestations say they've been overwhelmed in recent weeks. Parisians shell out an average of $500 to have their homes treated if they discover the tiny bugs.

A bedbug is seen crawling on the frame of a sofa in a home in L'Hay-les-Roses, just outside Paris, France, Sept. 29, 2023. REUTERS

Paris City Hall is particularly worried about the potential risk for visitors to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer.

"Bedbugs are a public health issue and should be declared as such," Deputy Mayor of Paris Emmanuel Grégoire wrote to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. He called on the government to put together an action plan to address the problem at a national level.

Transport Minister Clément Beaune has already announced a meeting this week with various public transport operators, with a view to "reassuring and protecting" travelers.

How to protect yourself from bedbugs

Bedbugs are tiny, but they are visible to the naked eye. They can spread easily and love to hide in mattresses and other soft furnishings like curtains, but also between floorboards, in electrical sockets and even behind wallpaper. They come out at night to feed on human blood.

In a busy city like Paris, tourists can unwittingly pick up the pesky passengers in their suitcases from an infected hotel, then travel by metro or other public means and deposit the hitchhikers in the seats.  

Exterminators say it's vital to act quickly if you spot bedbugs. All clothes and bedlinens that could be infected should be placed in garbage bags and closed tight, and then it should all be laundered on a high temperature setting.

Experts stress that hygiene has nothing to do with the spread of bedbugs — rather their high fertility rate means that once they find somewhere to eat and reproduce, they spread rapidly.

A report published over the summer by France's national food, environment and work hygiene organization, Anses, noted that there were two main culprits behind the recent proliferation of bedbugs in France - an increase in tourism, and greater resistance to insecticides.

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