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Every year, hordes of tourists descend upon Paris with a shortlist of concerns: pickpockets, steep hotel prices, how to get skip-the-line tickets and the most polite way to decline a stranger's offer of a friendship bracelet outside the Sacr-Coeur.
But as the French capital prepares to welcome millions of visitors for the 2024 Summer Olympics, a different issue has caught the eye of government officials: bedbugs. Lots of them.
Apparent footage of the insects has gone viral on social media platforms such as TikTok, prompting some users to post videos of themselves standing on the metro instead of taking an open seat or warning about infestations in their Airbnbs. Social media posts appeared to show bedbugs on the metro and in public buses. One showed bedbug bites all over a person's body, purportedly after visiting a movie theater.
Paris's deputy mayor, Emmanuel Grgoire, wrote a letter last week to Prime Minister lisabeth Borne calling for solutions to the bedbug problem, local media reported. "The state urgently needs to put an action plan in place against this scourge as France is preparing to welcome the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024," Grgoire wrote, according to French TV news outlet TF1 Info.
The deputy mayor also attempted to reassure the public on social media, but he still made his warning clear: "No one is safe" from an infestation, he said.
French Transportation Minister Clment Beaune wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that he planned to meet with transport operators to discuss the issue.
About 1 in 10 French households were infested with bedbugs between 2017 and 2022, according to a recent survey from French health agency ANSES, which warned that infestations were on the rise due to an uptick in travel and increasing resistance to pesticides.
"Bed bugs are a costly nuisance for households in metropolitan France, considering the expense of treatment and the psychological impact," the agency wrote in its report. It added that bedbugs are not known to transmit disease when they bite humans, but they are associated with a lower quality of life, sleep disorders and mental health issues.
Local media also reported bedbug and cockroach sightings on public transit in France's second-most populous city, Marseille, with one resident telling the news network BFM TV that she undresses on her balcony before entering her house in an attempt to keep the pests out.
Last week, a college student captured footage of what appeared to be bedbugs on a high-speed train line linking the city to Paris - little brown insects contrasting with blue-and-white striped chairs, easily visible in the daylight.
"Everyone looked at their seats and looked at their skin to see if they had been bitten by a bedbug," he said in a video interview translated by Le Parisien. "It was very anxiety-inducing."