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France calls in sniffer dogs to hunt for bedbugs on trains

Public transport chiefs will boost health procedures, says minister

Jane Dalton
Thursday 05 October 2023 00:13 BST
Related video: any infestation is difficult to deal with

Sniffer dogs have been called in to help inspect French trains and the Paris metro for bedbugs after dozens of reports of infestations caused alarm in the French capital.

Public transport users have taken to standing on the metro instead of sitting on the fabric seats as panic spread over the reported infestations, while others have posted on social media about the creatures swarming over their Airbnb rentals.

Transport minister Clement Beaune said there had been about 10 traveller reports about bedbugs at Paris public transport operator RATP and 37 at rail operator SNCF in recent weeks – but he denied there was an outbreak.


"When there is a problem, we deal with it, we won’t deny it. There is no outbreak of bedbugs in public transport," Mr Beaune said after meeting transport and travel chiefs.

French social and traditional media have reported extensively on bedbugs on trains and in cinemas, and the government has concerns about its impact on tourism and the Paris Olympics, which start in less than a year.

Deputy mayor of Paris Emmanuel Gregoire called the infestation “widespread”, and Eurostar this week stepped up cleaning on its trains because of the threat.

Bedbug bites leave red marks on the body that may cause itchy welts. Infestations in the home often need treating by pest controllers, and bedding has to be washed in water of 60C or more.

Mr Beaune said all French public transport operators would boost health procedures in general and the fight against bedbugs in particular, notably with canine sniffer teams, which he said were the most effective means of detection.

He added that every three months, data will be published about all bedbug reports and any confirmed infestations.

Clement Beaune promises to issue three-monthly data (EPA)

“Total transparency will bring total confidence,” he said, adding that there was “no need for psychosis or fear”.

He also plans to meet pest-control companies and to organise a conference on any problem by the end of this month.

With a typical lifespan of four to six months, bedbugs can be carried in luggage and boxes, and on clothing and bedding.

Experts say the UK already has bedbugs but the Paris epidemic could boost their numbers.

David Cain, founder of Bed Bugs Ltd and a microbiologist, said: “I have known people go on day trips to Paris, not even staying in hotels or other high-risk activities, and come back with them. Paris has been a popular link for the last six years.

“Business is already booming. I started doing this in 2005, when bedbugs were rare and obscure, but [they are] not any more.”

A Eurostar spokesperson told The Independent: “The textile surfaces on all of our trains are cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis, and this involves hot-water injection and extraction cleaning, which has proven highly effective in eliminating bugs.”

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