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06th Oct 2023

Experts issue warning bed bug infestation has already hit the UK

Steve Hopkins

Brits are ‘trying to keep the whole thing quiet’

The bed bug epidemic sweeping Paris is already in the UK, an expert has warned.

The French capital is at war with the small insects that often live in furniture and bedding and feed on blood, with the city’s deputy mayor, Emmanuel Gregoire, describing them as a “scourge” and a “public health problem”.

According to the French health and safety agency ANSES, one in 10 households in France has had a bedbug infestation between 2017 and 2022.

Amid fears the bugs may appear in the capital, an expert has told Sky News, “I think there’s probably a similar level of issue in London as there is in Paris at present.”

Microbiologist and founder of Bed Bugs Ltd David Cain said bed bugs were already on “buses, trains, tubes, cinemas, doctor’s surgeries, public spaces, hospitals.”

Cain said the only difference between France and the UK, is that Parisians are trying to combat the issue, while Bits are “trying to keep the whole thing quiet”.

That culture of silence, Cain added, creates the perfect environment for bed bugs to spread, he said.

Cain estimated 5 per cent of households in London have had a bed bug infestation in the last two years.

The UK saw a 65 per cent increase in bed bug infestations from 2022 to 2023, according to data released by pest-control company Rentokil in September.

Reacting to the findings, Natalie Bungay from the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) said she wasn’t surprised.

“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.”

Cain said that people who haven’t been on holiday are finding the bugs at home – indicating it isn’t a result of travelling and bringing them back – and people who don’t have cars are also being impacted – showing bed bugs are embedded on public transport networks.

Amid concerns the pests could get to the UK via France, Eurostar has said it is preparing “preventative treatment” to mitigate any potential spread.

In a statement to Sky News, a spokesperson said finding bed bugs on trains was “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.”

Trains will be disinfected “on request or as soon as there is the slightest doubt” bed bugs could be present, the company added.

Cain said to stop the potential spread of bugs on trains, a “one journey, one clean” system was required.

Sky News noted that bed bugs were common before the Second World War, but the discovery of DDT as a cheap and effective insecticide helped control them. But the insects developed resistance to DDT, and then to the next wave of insecticides.

For more information on bed bugs read the NHS help page here.

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