The crawling bedbug menace has led to huge concerns in France, gripping the country’s attention to take up pest control measures. The bed bug infestation is seen in multiple public places, including Paris’s Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, cinema halls, schools, hotels, hospitals, buses, metro, high-speed trains, and residential units. This has led to discussions in multiple public forums on how to deal with bedbug bites and ways to eliminate the menace.
France, which is hosting the Olympics 2024 in the next nine months, has taken up action plans to tackle the bedbug infestation, as there is fear lurking among people, who are conscious of the pest presence everywhere.
On 6 October 2023, Clement Beaune, Minister in charge of Transport, France, shared his statement on X (formerly Twitter) which read: “This (bedbugs) does exist but there is no sign of any invasion in the transport sector in France. We are taking it seriously. More transparency and more action to detect and protect!”
Bedbugs: How they infest and spread
When in the larvae stage, in pale yellowish color, the bedbugs can’t easily be seen. Only the matured insect which is moving around are visible to the naked eye. However, the bedbugs usually appear in colonies.
“If you spot one bedbug you must presume that there are 100 other bedbugs hiding somewhere,” says Dr Paparao Nadakurudu, internal medicine specialist at Citizens Hospital, Hyderabad. The scenario in France with a heavy manifestation of bedbugs in public places is also coupled with Insectophobia or Entomophobia (fear of pests and insects) among French nationals, he adds.
Dr Kamal Bhalla, infectious disease specialist at Sagar Hospitals, Bangalore says that the infestation of bedbugs can be very bad. “Generally when it starts it is very difficult to control as they lay eggs everywhere. They multiply in numbers very fast and can spread from public places via clothes and luggage. If they enter a place, it is very difficult to eradicate as they thrive and hide somewhere,” says Dr Bhalla.
Proper pest control needs to be done immediately after a few are encountered. Multiple pest control sessions may also be required in case of heavy infestation. “One must seek help from professional pest control services to eradicate the bugs at the earliest. The lesser their number, the easier to get rid of them. The more they multiply, they lay eggs all over the place – on clothes, beds, or wardrobes” says Dr Bhalla.
Bedbug bites: Symptoms
“Inflammation at the bite site, itching and red rashes can be seen on the unclothed body parts after a bedbug bite,” says Dr Bhalla. The bites occur at night or in dark surroundings.
Dr Nadakurudu adds that bedbugs are one of the few pests that can cause both an allergy (like hives or urticaria) and infection. “The blood, saliva and skeleton of the bedbugs can be a transmitter of 40 different pathogens that can cause infections,” says Dr Nadakurudu. Bedbugs are known to cause infections such as trench fever, a vector-borne infection, and chagas disease, an inflammatory infectious disease.
“The bedbug surge is world over and has nothing to do with environment or climate changes, as the pest survives only by sucking the human blood. It could be due to poor infection control measures which are also expensive,” said Dr Nadakurudu.
“It can cause an allergic reaction at the bite site. In very rare cases, an anaphylactic reaction (severe allergic reaction) is also possible. Hence, the bedbug bite can lead to both local and systemic allergy reactions,” said Dr Nadakurudu.
Sleepless nights due to bedbugs
The matured bedbugs are active only during the night when they move around looking for human blood. “Spotting bedbugs can lead to recurrent fears. Once spotted, a person would become conscious of its presence and keep actively searching to find out and burst the bedbug colony. It can be stressful and can potentially lead to sleepless nights,” says Dr Bhalla. The concerns about the allergic reaction due to the bedbug bite are always coupled with the fear of the pest causing sleeplessness, itching, irritation followed by anxiety and stress, adds Dr Bhalla.
According to Dr Nadakurudu, what is happening in France is nothing but Entomophobia or insectophobia which is the unrealistic fear of the traumatic consequences of an insect bite. “This is making people look beyond the actual situation due to acute fear of the bedbug infestation. It is fear psychosis,” said Dr Nadakurudu.
Is it possible to eliminate bedbugs overnight?
Bed bugs inhabit cool as well as dry places irrespective of the temperature. “Eggs can be still lurking somewhere beneath a bed, furniture, in a store room and keep proliferating. Hence complete elimination is difficult,” says Dr Bhalla, adding that many burn or throw the mattresses apart from using pesticides. “The bugs also develop resistance to pesticides. The same pesticide will not be effective next time and requires a stronger pesticide,” says Dr Bhalla.
“Insecticides such as synthetic pyrethroids are used in pest control. And using pest control for large dwelling places can be very expensive,” said Dr Nadakurudu adding that maintaining hygiene and clean bedding can prevent bedbugs.
Bedbug bites are treated with anti-allergic medication such as histamine receptive blockers in most cases, says Dr Nadakurudu. “If the allergy is severe, then there would be a need to prescribe corticosteroids, which is a type of anti-inflammatory drug. If the bedbug bite has led to an infection due to the pathogen it carries, then the affected person would require antibiotics as well,” he adds.
France is going through a tough time with bedbugs sweeping the country in multiple public places. Bedbugs lead to allergic reactions in most cases but can also cause infections in some cases depending on the pathogen carried. While elimination of the pest is not easy, frequent pest control measures are a requirement.