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Bedbug Panic Sweeps Paris Ahead of 2024 Olympics, Prompting Health Concerns

This photograph taken on October 3, 2023 shows a product used to eradicate bedbugs at the Hygiene Premium, pest control shop in Paris. The French government said on September 29, 2023 that it was launching a concerted effort to fight bedbugs that have appeared in numbers in public transport, cinemas and hospitals. The blood-sucking insects have been spotted in the Paris metro, high-speed trains and at Paris’s Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, with disgusted travellers posting videos on social media.InternationalIndiaAfricaParis and other French cities are grappling with a surge in bedbug infestations, sparking widespread concern and prompting questions about public health and safety in the lead-up to the 2024 Olympics. While some reports suggest a bedbug “plague,” the reality is much more complex.The number of bedbug sightings has risen in recent weeks across France, continuing an upward trend observed over several years. According to Jean-Michel Berenger, a leading entomologist in France, the seasonal increase is linked to summer travel, with people inadvertently bringing bedbugs back in their luggage each year.”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,” says Berenger.In Paris, where one in 10 flat-dwellers has faced bedbug issues in the past five years, new worries have emerged. Reports of bedbugs in cinemas and even on trains have fueled anxiety. Both the Paris City Hall and Macron government are taking the issue seriously, considering its potential impact on the city’s image ahead of the 2024 Olympics.Adding to the concern is the rapid spread of scare stories on the internet, amplifying the bedbug panic. While this heightened awareness can encourage early action against infestations, it has also led to exaggerated claims.WorldFrench Health Minister Urges Citizens Not to Panic Amid Bedbug InvasionYesterday, 18:40 GMT

Bedbug resurgence is not unique to France; it's a global phenomenon. Factors contributing to their return include globalization, climate change, and the evolution of bedbug populations to become more resistant to chemical eradication methods.

Cleaner homes and the decline of cockroaches, a natural bedbug predator, may have also played a role.

In developed countries, like France, the fear of bedbugs has spiked due to a lack of collective memory of dealing with them, while in other parts of the world, bedbugs remain common and managed more pragmatically.While bedbugs are undoubtedly a nuisance, they are not known to transmit diseases. Their bites can be uncomfortable but are usually short-lived. The real harm is psychological, as infestations can lead to heightened anxieties.To address the issue effectively, experts like Berenger suggest focusing efforts on “superspreaders” – individuals who, due to their living conditions and circumstances, unintentionally contribute most bedbug infestations. Such superspreaders often have limited access to support services and require targeted assistance to break the cycle of infestations.

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