Widespread Bedbug Infestation Wreaks Havoc on Paris—Could It Happen Here?

The infamous pests have even been spotted on public transportation ahead of the Summer Olympics.

While a home invasion by pests of any kind can be a nightmare, bedbugs would arguably be near the top of the list when it comes to potential perpetrators. Many live in utter fear of the tiny critters that can spread quickly and silently, are difficult to spot, and seemingly impossible to eradicate. Even a more minor outbreak in an area can be cause for concern for authorities looking to keep them at bay—and it's especially concerning when they appear to take over a major city. Now, a widespread bedbug infestation is wreaking havoc on Paris. Read on to see if the same issue could ever happen stateside.

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Paris is currently suffering from a widespread bedbug infestation.

iStock / Eva-Katalin

Paris is one of the most iconic cities in the world, with its celebrated cuisine, charming streets, historic monuments, and romantic ambiance. But unfortunately, the City of Light can now add at least one deeply unenviable trait to that list: overrun with bedbugs.

Authorities in the French capital have recently spoken out about the growing pest problem as the city gears up to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, The Guardian reports. Locals and visitors have taken to social media to post videos of bedbugs crawling on public transportation including the Paris metro and regional high-speed trains, at the city's Charles de Gaulle Airport, and in movie theaters. Others have noted that many people are choosing to stand during their commutes to avoid picking up any unwanted hitchhikers, according to Insider.

"No one is safe," Emmanuel Grégoire, deputy mayor of Paris, told French news channel La Chaîne Info (LCI) during an interview. "You can catch them anywhere and bring them home, and not detect them in time until they have multiplied and spread."

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The city's status as the top tourist destination could make the problem even more severe.

person packing suitcase with rolled clothes on bed, math jokes

The latest surge in reported sightings has led Grégoire and other officials to reach out for government assistance in combating the issue. However, the bloodsucking bugs are not a new threat to the country: Research from the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) found that just over one in 10 homes nationwide had been infested with bedbugs between 2017 and 2022, per The Guardian.

Besides becoming more difficult to eradicate in recent years due to developed resistance to the chemicals used for removal, the stealthy bugs also thrive in a city such as Paris, which sees a daily rush of millions of commuters from outlying suburbs and even more annual visitors from around the world. Experts now point out that this combination shows it could become a problem elsewhere.

"It's mainly due to the movement of people, populations traveling, the fact that people stay in short-term accommodation and bring back bedbugs in their suitcases or luggage," Johanna Fite, a representative from the ANSES Department of Risk Assessment, told CNN. "We are observing more and more bedbug populations which are resistant, so there is no miracle treatment to get rid of them."

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Paris isn't the only city that's had to deal with an onslaught of bedbugs.

View of New York City from the top of the Empire State Building.

Even if it's currently making headlines, Paris is far from the only city to suffer at the hands of such a tiny pest. Around 2010, New York City saw a spike in bedbug infestations that gripped the city in fear as several clothing stores, municipal buildings, schools, cinemas, and Broadway theaters were forced to deal with them, The Guardian reported.

Today, other U.S. cities share in this ongoing problem. Data posted earlier this year by pest control company Orkin shed light on which cities were the worst for bedbugs nationwide, with Los Angeles, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago among the top five for the number of commercial and residential bedbug treatments carried out by the company.

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Here's how to avoid bringing them into your home after a trip.

Mattress with Bed Bugs

Besides their itchy bites, bedbugs get their dire reputation from how hard it can be to rid your home of them once they've made it in. Fortunately, there are ways you can help reduce your risk of an infestation.

When on the road, make it a point to keep your clothes and dirty laundry off of your hotel room's floors, mattresses, and other soft furniture, opting instead for hangers and the bathtub, The Points Guy suggests. You should also perform a quick check for bedbugs by pulling back sheets and covers to look for any signs of dark streaks—while still keeping in mind that you may not spot anything even if they're present.

Once you're home, avoid the temptation to let your luggage languish on your bedroom floor and store your bags outside if possible, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests. Instead of dropping clothes in your hamper or back into your drawers, immediately unpack your clothing into a washing machine and check for any signs of the bugs. A complete laundry cycle should then help eliminate them, thanks to the high heat of a dryer. Storing your empty luggage in a basement or garage—and never under your bed—can also lower your chances.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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