The Parisian bedbug panic is one that just won’t go away and now, three weeks in, the problem appears to be burning a hole in hotels’ pockets.
Paris began sounding the alarm on a potential outbreak of bedbugs at the end of September, as the French capital’s iconic fashion week rolled into town.
Panic was set off by social media posts of the grain-sized insects hopping around Paris’s metro train service.
Paris’s deputy mayor, Emmanuel Grégoire, hasn’t helped quell that panic.
“No one is safe. You can catch them anywhere and bring them home, and not detect them in time until they have multiplied and spread,” Grégoire told French TV, according to the Guardian.
Now, France’s hotels have adopted a state of hypervigilance to show they are working to contain the spread of bedbugs in a bid to calm guests.
Speaking to the BBC, Max Malka, the owner of the Montlhery Paris Sud Hotel, less than 10 miles south of France’s capital, said he was forced to shell out €1,500 ($1,580) on pest control after a sighting.
“A fortnight ago we had a detection of a bedbug and it’s frightening,” Malka told the BBC.
Malka added he is at risk of getting sued if a bedbug manages to find its way from one room in his hotel to another.
In the U.K., where fear is spreading that the bedbugs will make the trip across the English Channel, sniffer dogs are being deployed in hotels and homes in a similar attempt to reassure citizens and visitors, the Guardian reported.
France’s panic over a potential scourge of bedbugs has been heightened by the looming prospect of Paris hosting the Olympic Games next summer. The city is expecting up to three million visitors, according to Euromonitor—and millions more locals—to converge for the two-week event.
The supposed bedbug outbreak has inevitably sparked hysteria across Europe and particularly France’s neighboring countries. In the U.K., London Mayor Sadiq Khan told PoliticsJOE the potential spread of bedbugs was “a real cause of concern.”
In Brussels, which shares a Eurostar train connection between Paris and London, doctors began to sound the alarm on a fresh outbreak of bedbugs in Belgium last week, according to reports by local publications The Brussels Times and Het Laatste Nieuws.
Fear has also been amplified by tabloid newspapers across the continent writing about the “blood-sucking insects” popping up in enclaves across the U.K. British newspaper the Independent was among the publications reporting calls to close the U.K.’s border with France.
However, it’s hard to know just how serious the current situation is. That’s because there is limited data on how Paris’s current bedbug population compares with previous years, experts told CNN.
ANSES, France’s health and safety agency, reported that one in 10 households had been infected by bedbugs between 2017 and 2022, a figure that, while alarming, doesn’t give any insight into this year’s trend.
Indeed, Paris may be the unfortunate sacrificial lamb in an apparent epidemic that has been a long time coming across the rest of the globe.
A study by Stephen Doggett and Chow-Yang Lee suggests there has been a “global resurgence” in bedbugs since the turn of the 21st century. More people living bunched up in cities, as well as the insect’s evolving resistance to pesticides, are key reasons for their newfound resilience.
Still, travelers are being reminded to be extra vigilant when they travel to Paris and other European cities by checking their hotel beds and keeping suitcases elevated on a rack, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.