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The Bedbugs Have Infested Paris, Is London Their Next Stop?

Staff writer Valeria Centola discusses the bedbug situation and the possibility of their exodus to London.

Over the past few weeks, residents of Paris have voiced their discontent regarding a bedbug infestation that has plagued the city. Videos on social media, specifically TikTok, are full of images of these repugnant bedbugs that have been observed in restaurants, cinemas, and public transport like buses and tube stations. The situation is becoming increasingly dire by the day, with the organisms garnering more attention than the celebrities during Paris Fashion Week, which concluded on 3rd October. You can leave Paris Hilton and Kendall Jenner, the real queens now inhabit the city!

Joking aside, the population is becoming increasingly scared. The moving of hundreds of people during the Rugby World Cup and the Fashion Week may have worsened the situation in the Ville Lumiere. The curse of the Olympics is being repeated as this time it is the capital of France which will serve as the venue for the next year. Following the water pollution debate in Brazil, the smog crisis in China a few years ago and the safety concerns and debates in Greece, there is considerable scepticism regarding the city’s preparedness to accommodate such a major event. 

But what are the actual risks caused by these bedbugs, and how can they be avoided?

First of all, it must be said that despite the lowly appearance of these creatures, they do not pose a significant threat to human beings. Although they subsist on human blood and inflict stings followed by burning itching, no documented fatal implications are associated with their bites. However, due to the burning itching they cause, trying to prevent their arrival and expansion is essential, so it is important to follow a few tips. The bedbugs construct their nests primarily in suitcases, clothing, furniture, and paintings; public spaces, including transportation systems and institutions and so these are particularly susceptible to infestation. Remember to meticulously clean all items, including your suitcase, if you come from abroad or in general!  Following this, laundering garments at a high temperature may also be beneficial. However, caution should be exercised when applying disinfectants, as they may not seal the job. To prevent them from entering homes, it is best to use silicone or sealant to seal all doors and windows that provide access. Additionally, if you have outdated fixtures, please attempt to fill them and prevent excessive humidity both inside and outside the home. Due to their attraction to food, particularly water, these parasites could infest your home.

But now we come to the question you were all asking yourselves: did bedbugs manage to sneak into the English capital? 

David Cain, a molecular biologist, pest control expert, and founder of Bed Bugs Ltd in 2005, is convinced that these insects travel on the famous train passing under the Channel, connecting London to Paris. He claimed that one person who had bed bugs for about a week had been on the Eurostar the week before. Pest professionals have received an increase in inquiries from worried Londoners. David Lodge of Beaver Pest Control had a 17% increase last month (and 10% last year). Joseph Terrence of Simply the Pest London reports receiving inquiries from travellers to Paris seeking protection-related advice. 

Despite this premise, Eurostar has tried to reassure its travellers by guaranteeing the extreme cleanliness of its trains. A delegate of the rail service declared: “The safety and wellbeing of our customers is always our number one priority, and the presence of insects, such as bed bugs, on our trains is extremely rare.”. In addition, a TfL representative told The Independent: “We are not aware of any outbreaks in London, but we will monitor our network and continue our rigorous and thorough cleaning measures, which have been proven to keep both the interior and exterior of our trains clean .”

Nonetheless, panic returned just as the situation appeared to be somewhat under control! Social media exploded after Tiktok user @LassoGold posted a video of what appeared to be a bedbug on his calf while riding the Victoria Line. Many have commented on the matter in the video’s comments, stating that what is seen in the video is not exactly a bed bug (it must be admitted that the ones in the Parisian videos appear much larger) and that this species of parasite has always been present in London, despite the imminent fear that some online users have generated. 

What, then, ought to be done?  Should we rely on the counsel of microbiologist Cain and examine the situation more rationally, avoiding social media-induced panic phrases in the process? Unfortunately, I cannot provide an unequivocal response. But in the interim, we must exercise caution and strive to maintain sanitary living areas and clothes while we await the case’s progression. Hopefully, we will not feel “shattered” with “rats on the west side, bed bugs uptown”, as the Rolling Stones sang in their 70s hit.

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