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‘No need for psychosis’: French transport minister urges calm over bedbug sightings on trains

Bedbugs sighted on French trains have sparked panic on social media as Paris urges action ahead of Olympics.
Bedbugs sighted on French trains have sparked panic on social media as Paris urges action ahead of Olympics. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Angela Symons with Reuters
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Are French trains infested with bedbugs? Passengers share videos of insects and bites.

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After reported sightings of bedbugs on French trains, transport minister Clement Beaune has urged calm.

There is "no need for psychosis or fear" he said after meeting with transport operators and travel associations on Wednesday, claiming that there is "no outbreak of bedbugs in public transport".

Social media users have reported bites and shared videos and photos of carriages allegedly infested with the blood-sucking bugs.

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.

Is action on bedbugs needed ahead of the Paris Olympics?

Usually confined to hotels and homes, France's bedbug problem appears to have spread to the Paris metro system and some cinemas in the capital.

National rail operator SNCF has denied that its trains are infested with the insects but has also said it will be vigilant over the coming weeks.

Beaune said all French public transport operators will boost health procedures in general and the fight against bedbugs in particular. As the most effective means of detection, canine sniffer teams will be used.

"When there is a problem, we deal with it, we won't deny it," said Beaune. "Total transparency will bring total confidence."

Paris City Hall has asked for urgent action from the state to combat the issue ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games.

Beaune also plans to meet pest control companies and aims to organise a conference about solutions to any potential problem by the end of this month.

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

Are French trains infested with bedbugs?

Last month, a passenger travelling on a TGV train from Marseille to Paris reported the presence of bedbugs to the train conductor.

Passengers in the carriage were informed that they could request a refund for their ticket, French daily newspaper Le Parisien reports.

Two other sightings were reported in the same week on other SNCF trains.

The train operator reassured Le Parisien that it carries out regular preventative treatment against pests and has not had any confirmed presence of bedbugs on its trains in recent months.

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Sightings have not been limited to SNCF trains. Last Friday, a passenger travelling with low-cost train operator Ouigo posted a video on X - formerly Twitter - of an insect resembling a bedbug on her seat.

It was accompanied by the caption, “Ouigo, remember to disinfect your trains, thank you”.

The problem may have even spread to the Paris Metro with Le Parisien reporting that a driver on line 8 flagged the presence of bedbugs in his cabin on Wednesday.

In the latest twist, bedbugs have been reported on TCL buses in Lyon, reports news site Actu.

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Bedbugs have also been reported in Paris cinemas

Last month, a report of bedbugs in a UGC cinema in Paris spread panic on social media.

After visiting the cinema in Bercy Village, in the city’s 12th arrondissement, an X user posted photos of bites on her body allegedly received while watching a movie there.

The cinema later posted an apology to customers via a press release on X, saying that it enacted an emergency procedure following sightings of bugs, including canine detection and high-temperature steaming.

It stopped short of offering customers a refund, saying it is difficult to determine the origin of bites.

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Further reports of bedbugs were made in MK2 cinemas in Beaubourg and Bibliothèque, as well as other UGC cinemas in Châtelet-Les-Halles, Noisy-le-Grand and Bercy or the Pathé Alésia, according to newspaper Le Figaro.

MK2 says it continuously inspects its cinema rooms and has carried out intervention and detection procedures at sites with reported infestations.

Are bedbugs dangerous?

Between 2017 and 2022, more than one in 10 French households faced a bedbug infestation, according to a recent report from Anses - the French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety.

It puts the rise in infestations down to the growth in travel and increasing resistance of bedbugs to insecticides.

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Although bedbugs do not spread diseases, their bites can be itchy and uncomfortable and the insects can spread rapidly. Dealing with an infestation can be difficult and costly.

The problem, which Anses says impacts households of all socio-economic backgrounds, costs on average €866 to fix. It advises non-chemical treatment methods such as extreme heat or freezing.

What is being done to combat France’s bedbug problem?

In a letter addressed to PM Elisabeth Borne, Paris City Hall has urged action against the city’s bedbug problem, Le Monde reports.

“Bed bugs are a public health problem and should be reported as such,” wrote the city’s Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire. “The State must urgently bring together all the stakeholders concerned in order to deploy an action plan commensurate with this scourge as the whole of France prepares to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024.”

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To prevent the problem from spreading on its trains, SNCF says it carries out regular thorough cleaning and anti-pest procedures, including using traps and insecticide in inaccessible areas.

Preventative treatments are typically carried out every 60 days, it told radio network France Inter, but following recent reports it has stepped up checks to every 15 days for at least the next month.

If reports of pests on a specific train are proven, it is taken out of service until the problem is fixed, SNCF added.

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