Rugby fans travelling to France this weekend for the World Cup quarter-finals are avoiding public transport and bringing their own bedsheets as the country reels from a nationwide panic over bedbugs.
Infestations have plagued French cities including Paris and Marseille, with households dumping mattresses in the street as they try to rid themselves of the notoriously hard-to-kill mites.
Over the next few days, thousands of Brits are headed to France’s second largest city Marseille as Wales play against Argentina on Saturday, while England take on Fiji on Sunday.
One rugby fan told MailOnline she plans to ‘actively avoid’ sitting on public transport and has started having ‘nightmares’ about bedbugs after watching videos of the critters on social media.
Natalie Shenkosky, 24, who lives in London, said: ‘I’m heading off to Marseille tomorrow for the rugby-filled weekend and the bed bug situation is definitely making me a bit wary.
Natalie Shenkosky, 24, who lives London, told MailOnline: ‘I’m heading off to Marseille tomorrow for the rugby-filled weekend and the bed bug situation is definitely making me a bit wary
Ms Shenkosky said: ‘It also feels like an infestation we shouldn’t be having this day and age?’
Video shows a backstreet in Marseille filled with home furnishings abandoned during the crisis
Bed bugs are seen in a sofa bed in L’Hay-les-Roses near Paris, France, last week
Comic opera star Melinda Hughes tweeted on her trip to Lyon: ‘I plan to put myself in the freezer for 72 hours when I get home’
‘It also feels like an infestation we shouldn’t be having this day and age?
‘I’m not taking my own sheets, but will definitely not be sitting on any transportation seats and will be keeping a close eye out for bugs in our Airbnb.
‘I’ll be travelling to Marseille with friends and family – we secured the tickets about a year ago now and they just so happen to be for the England and Wales game.
‘We’ve so been looking forward to it, but bed bugs will not be ruining the weekend – although I can’t lie I have had a few nightmares after seeing the viral videos of the bugs on transportation – which we will actively avoid if we can.
‘I’ll definitely be rooting for England, however my boyfriend used to work for the Wales rugby team so that will also be fantastic to watch.’
Nicola Murray, 28, from Sligo, Ireland, arrived in Paris last Friday and said she had brought her own bedsheets, the Times reported.
She said: ‘We’re going to avoid taking public transport where we can and rent bikes for the weekend.
‘I got a mattress protector and I have my own bed sheets and I told one of the girls to bring Jungle [Formula] insect repellant spray, because that has deet in it that will deter the bedbugs.’
It comes amid fears that France’s infestation could find its way to Britain.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said it was a ‘real source of concern’ that the problem may spread to the capital.
Transport for London (TfL) has begun disinfecting Tube seats on a daily basis to stop infestations.
But experts fear Brits heading to France for the Rugby World Cup could bring the insects back with them.
Nic Shacklock from Online-Bedrooms said: ‘It’s estimated over a million fans are heading to the Rugby Village.
‘If everyone is using public transport while Paris is gripped by a bed bug infestation, it’s more than likely an outbreak is heading to our shores.’
He added: ‘It’s worth placing bin bags or thick plastic bags on seats while using the Metro as they don’t like to cling onto smooth plastic materials.
‘We also advise being cautious when you arrive at the hotel room. Check under your bed sheets and strip the entire room as the bugs can be hiding within the mattress and on the sofa.’
Thousand of Irish fans made the trip to Paris last weekend for the match against Scotland on Saturday, with more set to arrive this week.
Experts say Internet searches for bedbugs in Ireland have peaked at an all-time high as the public looks for guidance to avoid the unwanted parasites.
The French government is battling to contain a bout of nationwide panic, with several secondary schools closing due to the infestation.
Footage shows residents walking past discarded mattresses in one of the streets in Marseille and Lyon, with some of the items lying in the road and others propped up against buildings.
Locals are also chucking out their home furnishings because of the issue, with a placard reading ‘bedbugs‘ pinned to the headboard of a bed to warn others not to take it.
The crisis has been something of sore spot for France as it hosts thousands of British and Irish rugby fans in Marseille and Paris for the Rugby World Cup this weekend.
Video from Marseille appears to shows residents throwing mattresses from apartments into the street below in attempt to rid their homes of bedbugs
A mattress is seen abandoned on a sidewalk in Marseille next to a line of bins
Sheets get an airing from balconies in Marseille as the southern French city deals with bed bugs
Government officials were holding an emergency meeting on Friday on how to tackle a crisis borne out of anecdote and viral posts on social media, and which is now filling talk show airtime – even if pest-control experts remain largely nonplussed.
Rail travellers, cinemagoers and US influencers in Paris for Fashion Week were among those reporting seeing the bugs, or being bitten by them.
Leftist lawmaker Mathilde Panot took a vial she said contained bedbugs into parliament.
She told French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne bedbugs were everywhere and she lambasted the government for inaction.
‘Madame prime minister, these little insects are spreading despair in our country. Do we need to wait for Matignon (PM’s office) to become infested before you act,’ Panot said.
Sniffer dogs are inspecting French trains and the Paris metro for bedbugs, though so far not a single one has been found on public transport, the country’s transport minister, Clement Beaune, said.
Beaune met last week with transportation companies to draw up a plan for monitoring and disinfecting – and to try to ease what some have called a national psychosis inflamed by the media.
‘There is no resurgence of cases,’ Beaune said, telling reporters that 37 cases reported in the bus and Metro system and a dozen others on trains proved unfounded – as did viral videos on social media of tiny creatures supposedly burrowing in the seat of a fast train.
Between 2017 and 2022, more than one in ten French households had been infested with bedbugs, the health authority says.
The National Agency for Food, Environmental and Workplace Safety (ANSES) said the presence of bedbugs did not mean poor hygiene.
Concerns have grown over a bedbug infestation in London after a video went viral over the weekend of what was claimed to be a bed bug on a person’s leg on the Victoria line.
A bed bug is seen on a glove of a biocide technician from Hygiene Premium in Paris last month
If you are concerned that you may have brought the bugs into the house, Rik Smith of Goodlord says you should ‘put affected clothes and bedding in the freezer for a few hours before washing’
There are also fears the bed bug invasion has reached Luton in Bedfordshire after the local authority said it had received an ‘alarming number’ of calls about the insects. Elsewhere, a bed bug was supposedly spotted on a bus in Manchester yesterday.
There has been increasing concern in recent days that the French outbreak could spread to the UK, not least because rugby fans are travelling to and from France for the World Cup – with England playing Fiji in the quarter-final in Marseille on Sunday.
But some experts have disputed whether the creature is indeed a bed bug, with one saying it was not ‘flat enough’ and another saying that the clip ‘looks wrong.’
Another commuter shared a video on TikTok of what they claimed was a bed bug on a Central line train in west London – but, again, this has not been verified by experts.
A different passenger posted a video from the Northern line, saying they would not sit down because they saw what they thought were bed bug eggs on the seat material.
Transport for London (TfL) is disinfecting seats daily after videos circulated on social media showing train seats on the Paris Metro crawling with the blood-sucking bugs, fuelling concerns that they will still be a problem when the city hosts the Olympics.
However, Richard Wall, from the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, said the insect in the Victoria line video was not ‘flat enough’ to be a bed bug.
He told Metro.co.uk: ‘I’m also pretty confident that it’s not a tick either (too big). It’s worth noting that bed bugs are largely nocturnal.’
And Adam Juson from the pest control company Merlin Environmental said the apparent bed bug did not appear to be real.
He told the Daily Telegraph: ‘It does look sort of like a bed bug but the video is not really good enough to ID from. The bug is not mobile so this could be a remnant from a treatment or one that has got caught on the person’s clothes.
‘We have found bed bugs on trains in the past so it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility but this looks wrong.’
But David Cain, molecular biologist and founder of Bed Bugs Ltd, told Sky News: ‘There’s been a lot of attention, people worrying about bed bugs coming across from France. But the reality is we already have a large enough problem in the UK.
‘Just yesterday there were videos of people showing bed bugs crawling on people on the Tube system in London. So the thing that sparked all the concern in Paris is already happening in London.’
Mr Cain added: ‘Because the problem has exploded so rapidly over the last decade – they’re now in public spaces, cinemas, doctor’s surgeries, hospitals, all over the place, you then have to check your own bed.
‘The reality is we spend an average of 180 hours a month sleeping in our beds. So we really should give them the respect of 30 minutes once a month to clean them.’
Mr Khan said he was concerned, but TfL was doing everything it could to ensure the bed bug infestation in France does not spread to public transport in London.
He told PoliticsJOE: ‘This is a real source of concern, right? People are worried about these bugs in Paris causing a problem in London.
A pest control technician sprays an insecticide under a mattress in Paris last Wednesday
Products used to eradicate bed bugs at the Hygiene Premium pest control shop in Paris
‘I was in contact with TfL last week and this weekend. We’re taking steps to make sure we don’t have those problems in London, in relation to regular cleaning of not just the Tubes and our buses, but talking to the Eurostar as well.
‘TfL have one of the best regimes to clean our assets on a nightly basis. We’re speaking to our friends in Paris to see if there are any lessons to be learned. For a variety of reasons we don’t think those issues will arise in London – but no complacency from TfL.’
TfL has confirmed that it is monitoring trains and buses for any indication that the infestation could have reached the UK.
A TfL spokesman said: ‘We are continuing to closely monitor our network but are not aware of any outbreaks in London.
‘We are continuing to implement our rigorous and thorough cleaning measures that 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 our bus, Tube and rail service 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.’
- Are you a rugby fan heading to the World Cup in France this weekend? Tell us about your bedbug concerns – email [email protected].