The long-repeated advice: Don’t let the bedbugs bite.
But with the Paris Olympics less than a year away, fears that the blood-sucking insects could take a bite out of those attending the Olympic Games next summer have led to demands for action.
Footage of the creatures crawling around on high-speed trains and the Paris Metro has been published on social media, while many report sightings in cinemas and even at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Online articles about bedbugs have also started to pop up regularly.
After the reports reached the highest levels of government, Transport Minister Clemente Beaune said Friday that he would discuss the issue with transport operators next week.
Promising to “reassure and protect” travelers using public transit systems, Beaune said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that operators would “act more to serve customers.”
His post came a day after Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire wrote a letter on behalf of the French capital’s City Hall, calling on Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne to act on the “scourge.”
“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,” Grégoire wrote, according to Reuters.
“No one is safe,” he said in a separate post on X Thursday as he called for “coordinated measures” between health authorities and local communities to prevent the spread of the bugs, which burrow in furniture, clothing and bedding, and feed on blood, usually at night. Females can lay up to seven eggs a day, meaning infestations can spread quickly.
“More than one in 10 French households were infested by bedbugs” between 2017 and 2022, according to a July study by ANSES, the government agency responsible for assessing health risks in food, the environment and workplaces.
Bites can result in rashes, allergic reactions and blisters, according to the French government, which advises people to wash clothes and bedding at high temperatures, vacuum furniture and carpets and to call in pest control services if the problem persists.
Although income level has no bearing on the likelihood of a household falling victim to an infestation, it is a factor in the persistence of one, with domestic extermination services charging around 866 euros ($917), according to ANSES.
In a separate tweet, Deputy Mayor Grégoire said that the city was supporting lower-income households in helping them meet the cost of extermination, and called on home insurance companies to include the cost of extermination in their plans.
“It’s private companies who are contracted for dealing with bedbugs, and they are free to set their own prices,” said Sophie Marie Niang, who lives between Paris and Cambridge, England, where she is studying for a doctorate in sociology.
Infestations were exacerbated for people who can’t afford the high prices set by the growing demand for fumigation, she said.
Members of the National Assembly representing poorer communities on Paris’ outskirts have been calling for state limitations on extermination prices since 2019, but have been ignored, she said.
She added that tourists staying in short-term vacation rentals with unregulated cleaning and sanitary standards were more likely to have brought the issue to the fore as they unwittingly moved the insects through wealthier, central sections of Paris, adding a new crisis for the city ahead of preparations for the Summer Olympics in 2024.
The infestation has contributed to the sense that “everything is going wrong” for the city ahead of the Games, she said.
“People torched Olympic worksites in protest during the riots and Paris is swarming with bedbugs,” she said, referring to mass unrest in June over the police killing of Nahel Marzouk, a 17-year-old of North African descent.
“It does not bode well.”
This article first appeared on NBCNews.com.
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