Bed bugs may seem like something that belong in Tudor England, but there are growing worries that they’re about to have a bit of a 2023 renaissance in London.
Unfortunately, this is actually quite a reasonable concern, because the bugs are somehow making their way into people’s homes in Paris right now, en masse.
Of course, the critters don’t pose a dangerous threat to us. They may carry some pathogens, but there’s no evidence that they can transfer those to humans.
However, their bites can be very itchy, and it’s quite repulsive to think that you’re sharing your home with blood-sucking pests.
Here’s what we know so far.
What has TfL said about bed bugs coming in via the Eurostar?
At the moment, Transport for London (TfL) seems to be feeling cautious – but optimistic.
A TfL spokesperson told The Independent: “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.”
The Eurostar also confirmed on Tuesday that it was increasing its “preventative treatments” on its network to stop the bed bugs spreading to London.
It said that the “presence of insects such as bed bugs on our trains is extremely rare”, because the textiles on its trains are cleaned thoroughly and regularly, through hot water and extraction cleaning.
They also said they are willing to disinfect a train on request, or as soon as there is any doubt.
So, are we safe in the UK?
Well, that’s not clear at the moment.
Bed bugs are known to travel across borders, and can easily attach themselves to almost any of your possessions.
And, it seems the UK is already experiencing more of the very unwelcome insects recently.
What’s the situation in Paris at the moment?
Just to refresh your memory, it’s really not great in the French city of love right now.
Parisians were even standing up on trains, leaving plenty of seats empty over fears of the infestation.
After all, the bugs have been seen across Paris and Marseille, both in public places and homes, setting up shop on public transport, airpots and cinemas, as well as beds and soft furnishings across the capital.
The French government agency which manages health risks, ANSES, reported that more than one in 10 French households had a bedbug problem between 2017 and 2022.
It even has some people panicking about how the city is going to cope when it holds next year’s Olympics.
How do you know if you have bed bugs?
First, you need to know what they look like.
They are small, oval, brown insects which feed on animals’ (including humans’) blood, according to WebMD.
Adults are around the size of an apple seed, but turn red and plump after they indulge in their vampiric feeding sessions.
They can also flatten their bodies to hide, and aren’t afraid to wander from one room to another for food or after mating.
There are signs you have an infestation on you (and your bed) too:
- Small, itchy bites on your skin
- Blood spots on your sheets or mattress
- Bedbug poo – these look like tiny black dots
- Discarded bedbug skin – they shed it and it looks a lot like the bugs themselves
- White, oval eggs that are about as big as an apple seed
- A sweet, musty odour around your bed
But, bear in mind that not everyone develops red, itchy marks from bed bugs bites. Some people don’t have a reaction at all, while other people develop painful swellings.
How do you prevent bed bugs?
The US’s Environmental Protection Agency advises:
- Keep things tidy, don’t give the bugs a chance to settle down in clutter
- Prevent cracks in plaster or wallpaper where they can hide
- Wash and dry clothes (and sheets) on high temperatures (60C) to kill the eggs
- Check suitcases carefully for signs of them after travelling
- Check pets for signs they may have picked them up
- Hoover everywhere regularly, including your bed, furniture and electronics
- Bin anything you think might be the source of the infestation.
How to get rid of a bed bug infestation?
We’ll be honest, this is no easy feat.
The NHS notes you’ll probably have to call pest control or your local council, as it’s incredibly hard to remove them.
It explains: “It’s very difficult to get rid of bedbugs yourself because they can be hard to find and may be resistant to some insecticides.
“There are some things you can try yourself, but these are unlikely to get rid of bedbugs completely.”