The Eurostar is ramping up its cleaning routine as a surge of bedbugs in Paris is sparking fears they could spread to the UK.
The bloodsucking creatures live on soft furnishings, such as mattresses, bedding, clothes and suitcases.
Videos on social media have shown what appears to be the bugs hitching a ride across the French city on public transport seats and even reports of them being in Charles de Gaulle Airport.
This, teamed with the influx of people in Paris, including 5,000 fashion week attendees plus up to 600,000 rugby fans getting the Eurostar to France for the World Cup, is leading to fears the bug epidemic could arrive in Britain.
Experts put the spread of the parasites down to “the movement of people and populations travelling”.
French government official Johanna Fite told CNN: “[It is]The fact that people stay in short-term accommodation and bring back bedbugs in their suitcases or luggage.”
What are transport companies doing to stop the spread of the bugs?
A key route from England to Paris is the two hour trip on the Eurostar from London’s St Pancras.
In light of the bedbug problem the train company is taking additional measures to stop the spread.
A spokesperson told ITV News: “The safety and wellbeing of our customers is always our number one priority and the presence of insects such as bedbugs on our trains, is extremely rare.
“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.
“Any reports on hygiene matters are taken very seriously and our cleaning teams, in addition to the usual cleaning, will also disinfect a train on request or as soon as there is the slightest doubt.”
Eurostar operator SNCF told CNN, to date it had not seen any or proven reports of bedbugs.
Charles De Gaulle Airport has told ITV News there were no bedbugs in Paris’ airports, including in “boarding lounges, other public areas or technical areas such as baggage sorting”.
A spokesperson for Groupe ADP, which owns and runs the airport, says it “remains vigilant”.
It added: “The media that have mentioned airports in connection with this topic have been referring to the ZAPI (waiting area for pending cases), which is a building located outside our facilities and managed by the police.”
What is the French government doing?
Earlier this week the Deputy Mayor of Paris Emmanuel Gregoire warned “no-one is safe” from the “widespread” issue.
Since then the French government has doubled down, taking action to stop the bugs spreading and reassuring people not to “panic”.
Speaking to French radio station France Inter, Aurelien Rousseau conceded that “when you see them around you, when you have bedbugs in your home, it’s a nightmare” but assured listeners that “we haven’t been invaded by bedbugs.”
The French transport ministry confirmed to CNN that its transport minister Clement Beaune will hold a meeting on Wednesday “to strengthen measures” following the reported surge in the insect.
French transport operators say they remain “vigilant” about bedbugs following reports of sightings on public transport.
RATP, which runs the Paris metro, told CNN on Monday that “each sighting is taken into account and is subject to a treatment.”
It said “these last few days, there have been no proven cases of bedbugs recorded in our equipment.”
Is it really a bed bug?
As fears of the critters grow, French ministers have suggested it’s actually ‘paranoia’ and “not bedbugs”.
Marie Effroy said “there’s a bedbug problem, but at the same time, there’s a kind of paranoia going on because people hear about bedbugs.”
When asked about the recent reported sightings, Effroy said people “see bedbugs everywhere,” but added that “sometimes it’s not bedbugs.”
Here’s how to spot a bedbug
Bedbugs can be dark yellow, red or brown and are around 5mm long.
Bedbugs can hide in many places, including on bed frames, mattresses, clothing, furniture, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper.
Signs of bedbugs include:
- Bites – often on skin exposed while sleeping, like the face, neck and arms
- Spots of blood on your bedding – from the bites or from squashing a bedbug
- Small brown spots on bedding or furniture (bedbug faeces)
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