There is no let up to the wave of the recent public bedbug sightings in France, with a Parisian metro driver now claiming to have seen the pests on one of his trains.
The insects have been making the news recently after being discovered in Parisian cinemas and more recently passengers reporting them to be on at least two SNCF trains.
Around 11% of all French homes now contain the insects, said a study by the French Healty and Safety Authority.
The driver claims he saw the bugs in the driver’s cabin of a carriage on line 8, which runs between Créteil and Balard, this week. The French newspaper Le Figaro later confirmed the information.
The RATP, which runs Paris’ public transport network, has responded by stating that the train in question has been taken out of commercial service for expert examination and will be treated by specialists if the bugs are found.
RATP to investigate, hoping it unblemished record stays intact
The RATP says it is “particularly vigilant” about the presence of the pests – an impressive feat considering the ridership of the metro alone is around five million on an average weekday. It claims that to date “no proven cases of bedbugs have been found,” on any of its metro, RER, bus, or tram vehicles.
The FO-RATP – the second largest union for RATP workers – is sure that the bedbugs could have easily made their way onto the Paris public transport network.
The fabric of certain seats, which allow the pests to slip in and lay eggs unnoticed, and the fact that "passengers are not always very clean,” are two reasons it gives.
It would not be the first incidence of bedbugs on public transport this year – in July, a number of buses and metros in Marseille were found to be infested with both cockroaches and bedbugs with some drivers being bitten..
Nowhere is safe from pests
After having virtually disappeared in the 1950s, bedbug sightings have been reported in larger numbers from the 1990s onwards, spurred on by the increase in domestic and international travel.
They can appear wherever humans live, work, or even spend a small amount of time in, said Stéphane Bras, national spokesman for the CS3D, a firm specialised in pest control.
“There is no reason why public transport should be spared,” he said, particularly "we are seeing a mini-explosion of cases that is spreading like wildfire.”
The bugs have also been spotted in crèches, schools, libraries (a library in Amiens is currently closed after a bedbug infestation), offices, and co-working spaces.
They can go up to one year without feeding, which means they can lie dormant in spaces waiting for a human vector without signs that they are there.
It means that entering almost any public space could make your clothes, bag, or shoes a one-way passage to bring bedbugs back into your home.
The issue “needs to be controlled on a society-wide scale,” said Mr Bras.
“It is absolutely essential "that the risk is known, and that more measures are taken to anticipate and treat it,” he added.
In particular a major nationwide education campaign on how bedbugs can be brought back home – and how they can be spotted in public – should take place, he said.
One piece of advice he gives is that people should systematically check their outer layer clothes and bags for bugs after going to the cinema or using the public transport network before heading inside their home.