Transport for London and Eurostar on alert as France grapples with bedbug infestation
An infestation of blood-sucking bedbugs is sweeping through France – prompting fears that it won’t be long before the critters invade the UK in large numbers.
With transport companies in England among those said to be on high alert – could the problem could soon become an international infestation?
What’s happening in France?
Paris is said to be burning its bed linen as a significant bedbug infestation scuttles through the city of light.
Having been spotted in everything from cinema chairs and hospital furniture to the cushioned seats on its metro system, the city’s deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire has described problems as ‘widespread’ with social media awash with videos of people finding the tiny insects across the city.
Passengers are said to now be standing on public transport amid fears bugs will hitch a ride home if they sit down, while hotel chains and property rentals – all managing an influx of visitors from events including the Rugby World Cup and Paris Fashion Week - are implementing stringent cleaning routines to try and stamp out the problem.
So concerning is the outbreak that regular meetings have been held by the country’s government – alongside discussions with transport companies - while seven schools in the region have had to be closed for deep cleans after infestations were reported.
What are bedbugs?
Bedbugs are tiny insects, usually a dark red or brown in colour, which feed on blood. Adults measure around 5mm in length.
Often found living in furniture or bedding, they can also be caught up in clothing, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper. They are usually spread when carried in on clothing or luggage – or furniture which is being moved from place to place.
Signs of bedbugs, says the NHS, would include bites on exposed skin while sleeping, spots of blood on bedding from the bites or a squashed bug or small brown spots on bedding or furniture that can be a sign of bedbug faeces.
Bedbug bites can be itchy and cause painful swelling, but normally clear up within a week.
However treating an infestation can be much more tricky with the advice and help of pest control experts often needed to eradicate a problem. Bedbugs are also resistant to some insecticides making it tricky for property owners to clear them without professional help.
Preventing an invasion
Bedbugs are definitely not unheard of in the UK and pest control experts are regularly called upon to wipe-out infestations.
The critters are also more likely to be found where there are larger populations of people – meaning bigger towns and cities are likely victims prone to experiencing surges in numbers from time to time.
In 2010 it was New York under attack - with infestations forcing the closure of flagship shop Niketown and prompting Google to admit it too had uninvited guests.
With France currently hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors for the Rugby World Cup – and previously Paris Fashion Week – as well as half term on the horizon, there are concerns visitors to the continent will be coming back to the UK with souvenirs they didn't purchase.
Eurostar, which runs around 15 services between London and Paris each day, has sought to reassure passengers that all of its textile seats continue to be cleaned thoroughly in light of the news.
Plans are also reportedly in the pipeline for preventative measures across its network to ensure no critters cross the Channel.
Transport for London said it too is watching events carefully, with thousands of travellers using the capital’s public transport network each day as part of their journey to and from mainland Europe.
TfL says any seats not fit for customer use will be ‘quickly replaced’ and that it’s cleaning procedures include both the regular vacuuming and shampooing of fabric.
While a TikTok video over the weekend claimed to have found the bugs on London Underground’s Victoria Line, a TfL spokesman said it wasn’t aware of any outbreaks.
In a statement it added: “We are continuing to closely monitor our network but are not aware of any outbreaks in London.
“We are continuing to implement our rigorous and thorough cleaning measures that have been proven to keep both the interior and exterior of our trains clean.”