Why Are People Still Talking About the Paris Bedbugs?

The reason the Paris bedbug outbreak still matters

October 10, 2023 2:53 pm
Bedbugs in Paris
The pests will definitely outlive Fashion Week.
Getty Images

One of the largest and most glamorous fashion showcases in the entire world, Paris Fashion Week — which officially concluded on October 3 — has been known to attract hordes of buyers, celebrities, models, designers and influencer types to the City of Light twice a year since its inception in 1973. It is, quite possibly, the chicest week to be in the French capital, save for the massive wave of bedbugs it also welcomed during the same span of time this year.

Last week, dozens of videos of bedbugs in hotels, on trains and buses, and at Charles-de-Gaulle Airport began surfacing online alongside all of the forthcoming Spring/Summer ’24 collections, sparking a city-wide panic that eventually went international. Deputy Mayor of Paris Emmanuel Gregoir called the outbreak “widespread,” saying that  “no one is safe,” adding, “Obviously there are risk factors but in reality, you can catch bed bugs anywhere and bring them home.”

To the city’s credit, it acted swiftly. In conjunction with public transportation operators, Transport Minister Clement Beaune vowed to “reassure and protect” the public by virtually any means necessary. But here’s the thing about bedbugs: while there are certainly ways in which to mitigate the spread, it can be incredibly difficult to contain — particularly considering that bedbugs can survive on planes and in checked luggage. So with that in mind, and being that Fashion Week goers are now starting to trickle back into their day-to-days, the topic of bedbugs is arguably more prevalent this week than it was last.

“[O]h cool our coworker who was living in [P]aris for 6 weeks is back and in office with all of us, no concerns there,” one X user wrote this morning, adding “[N]o one is even asking her about the bed bugs, all ‘So how was the [E]iffel [T]ower? [D]id you travel a lot[?]’ and [I]’m about to be the bad guy for going ‘[M]a’am did you burn everything you own and start over?’”

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The unfortunate piece is that there truly isn’t all that much you can do where public bedbug infestation preparedness is involved. Experts suggest wearing light colored clothing can help (so you can spot them on your person quicker), in addition to plastic bagging your belongings inside of your carry-on and being conscious of where you’re setting that carry-on (e.g. on the ground in your hotel room or on public transportation). According to a report from CBS News, it’s also smart to leave your carry-on in your garage for a few days, as well as to wash your clothes on a high temperature, upon returning home. (And then, just to be safe, reassure apprehensive colleagues that you are doing those things.) But it really comes down to vigilance.

Though, while it is extremely rare, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, or even the first time this year. This summer, the Department of Transportation received reports of bedbugs in the E Gates of Terminal 2 at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Hawaii. Back in 2018, the pests were found in upholstered chairs at the Kansas City International Airport. That same year, the New Jersey news outlet FOX5NY reported that passengers on an India bound flight from Newark Liberty International Airport were forced to deal with bedbugs, and subsequent bites, for the entirety of the 17 hour flight.

All of that said, the big question mark now, at least as it pertains to Paris, is how this bout of bedbugs might impact the next big scheduled event, one that is set to attract an even larger crowd than Fashion Week: the 2024 Summer Olympics.


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