Paris bitten by New York-style bed bug scare

Tue Nov 16, 2010 2:06pm EST
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By Patrick Vignal and Nick Vinocur

PARIS (Reuters) - Tiny, bloodthirsty and relentless, the insect pest that became a nightmare for millions of New Yorkers has found its way to Paris, spreading fear of an outbreak that could turn into the ultimate tourism-killer.

Bed bugs, known in French as "punaises de lit," or "bed drawing pins," were a rarity in France just three years ago, far less prevalent in homes than mice or cockroaches and well under the radar of public health officials. No longer.

An employee at the public health section of Paris' City Hall who asked not to be named said more than 600 places in the city have needed treating for bed bug infection so far this year -- a marked increase from 2009.

While the city is playing down the extent of the problem, rejecting the term "invasion," exterminators said bed bugs were spreading quickly throughout the French capital and had already appeared in other parts of the country.

"Let's say it started in 2007," said Reynald Boudet, owner of the Aurouze extermination shop in Paris. "Back then we had ten requests per year. Now it's more like a hundred ... We are getting more and more orders for (extermination) products from all over the country."

Travelers from the United States and Canada had probably acted as hosts for the tiny parasites, which lodge in fabric -- preferably beds -- and feed on human blood at night, he said.


The problem grabbed public attention when France Info, a radio news station, reported on Tuesday that several Parisian hotels had been infested. It said one threw out all of its carpets and furniture after guests complained.   Continued...