10 October 2023
Officials in France are worried about the spread of an insect called the bedbug as Paris prepares to hold the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.
Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne called a meeting of ministers to deal with the bedbug crisis. The country's transportation minister, Clé ment Beaune, recently met with transportation companies to make a plan for monitoring and disinfecting.
Beaune also spoke about reducing worry caused by reports on social media. He told reporters there is no increase in bedbug cases. He added that 37 cases reported in the bus and Metro train system and many other reports from trains have proved false.
The National Agency for Health and Food Safety reported that 11 percent of households had a bedbug problem between 2017 and 2022. Because many people might not want to say in public that they have a bedbug problem, the agency used a poll by the company Ipsos to collect the information.
The insects are about the size of an apple seed. They neither jump nor fly. However, they have become more resistant to chemicals used to kill insects. And they can stay alive for up to a year with no food.
The carbon dioxide humans give off makes the insects become active and try to bite, explained Jean-Michel Berenger. He is a scientist who studies insects. He raises bedbugs in his laboratory in the infectious diseases division of the Méditerranée University Hospital in the city of Marseille.
For now, Berenger said, this much is clear: "Bedbugs have infested the media."
Experts say it makes no difference if a home is clean or dirty. The insects simply want to bite people to get blood, explained Berenger.
"Whether you live in a dump or a palace, it's the same thing to them," he said.
Worry about bedbugs has increased business for insect control companies in France. They use dogs to smell the special odor that bedbugs make. Then, they use hot steam to kill the bugs.
Kevin Le Mestre is director of Lutte Antinuisible, a company that removes unwanted insects and animals such as rats. He said that in the past, people would not call his company even if they had been bitten by a bedbug. But now he said his company is getting many calls from people worried about the insects.
The increase in public worry began about a month ago after reports of bedbugs at a Paris movie theater. Videos began popping up on social media, showing the little insects on trains and buses.
Some government officials want to create new rules to fight against bedbugs.
Lawmaker Mathilde Panot recently brought a glass container of bedbugs to the Parliament to criticize the government, claiming it had let the insects spread quickly.
Because bedbugs travel easily on clothing or in luggage, they are a cause of worry for officials ahead of the 2024 Olympic games.
"All human population movements are profitable for bedbugs because they go with us, to hotels, in transport," said Berenger.
Beaune, the transport minister, is hopeful that steps can be taken to reduce the public's fear. But, he added, "It's hell, these bedbugs."
I'm Andrew Smith.
Elaine Ganley wrote this story for the Associated Press. Andrew Smith adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
monitor –v. to observe something for a special purpose over time
disinfect –v. to destroy germs or unwanted plants or animals from an area
poll –n. seeking the public's opinion on issues by asking a large number of people questions
infested –adj. overrun by large numbers of animals or plants that are not wanted.
dump –n. a dirty, disordered place
palace –n. a very large and impressive house; the home of a king or queen
luggage –n. containers used to store clothes in for travel
hell –n. a very bad place; a place where, in many religions, evil people are sent