With Paris in the grips of a bed bug infestation less than a few months before the 2024 Olympics, a pest control expert has warned the problem is likely to be just as bad in London.
Reports this week suggested problems in the French capital have worsened in recent months, with the bloodsucking insects spotted in hotels, as well as homes, cinemas, hospitals and even on trains.
However, David Cain, a microbiologist and founder of Bed Bugs Ltd, warned there was no room for complacency in the UK – claiming that, in contrast to France, authorities in this country were trying to hush things up.
Eurostar has confirmed it is taking steps to ensure its trains are bed bug free amid concerns they could “migrate” to the UK – but Mr Cain stressed they were already here.
He told Sky News: “I think there’s probably a similar level of issue in London as there is in Paris at present.
“They’re already on buses, trains, tubes, cinemas, doctor’s surgeries, public spaces, hospitals.”
As opposed to Parisians, who were talking about the problem, Londoners were “trying to keep the whole thing quiet”, he added.
Disturbingly, Mr Cain estimated five percent of households in the capital have had a bed bug infestation in the last two years.
Significantly, people without cars were also affected, suggesting they were embedded on Britain’s public transport networks, he added.
Deputy Mayor of Paris Emmanuel Gregoire has described bed bugs as a “scourge” and a “public health problem”, calling on French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to take action.
The problem is nothing new – three years ago, the French government launched an anti-bed bug campaign, including an emergency helpline where people could get expert advice.
More than ten percent of French households had a bedbug infestation between 2017 and 2022, a report published by ANSES, the French health and safety agency, revealed earlier this year.
However, the UK is far from a bed bug-free zone – data published by Rentokil last month revealed a 65 percent increase in infestations year-on-year between 2022 to 2023.
Natalie Bungay, of the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), said: “Reports of bed bug activity tend to increase in the summer as people travel more.
“The lack of travel during COVID-19 lockdowns meant bed bug issues were few and far between, so it’s not surprising we’re now seeing a rapid rise in call outs.
“Bedbugs are international travellers.
“It’s not always obvious where they’ve come from, but commonly they can be introduced to your property after attaching themselves to luggage, bags, clothes or through second-hand furniture and even laptops.
“Bedbugs are small and agile, avoiding detection by crawling into concealed locations.”
Transport for London is also monitoring the situation, although there is no suggestion the tube or rail network is infested.
A spokesman said: “We are not aware of any outbreaks in London, but we will monitor our network and continue our rigorous and thorough cleaning measures which have been proven to keep both the interior and exterior of our trains clean.
“We are committed to providing a clean and safe environment on the Tube for our customers and staff and we would like to reassure our customers that we continue to maintain our already high standards of cleanliness, so our staff and customers can use the network safely and with confidence.”