How the bedbug crisis is becoming a political issue

The power that social media has in creating an impact in the way that we react to news is increasingly becoming a part of our daily lives, the latest issue being the bedbug epidemic in France. This has blown up on for you pages across the country, begging the question of whether this is an epidemic, and should it become a political issue both in France and the UK?

‘Don’t let the bedbugs bite’ is the last phrase that many would have heard before going to sleep when younger, but this idiom has become a scary reality for many Parisians. They have been reported as to being seen in the Metro, cinemas, national train services and at Charles-De-Gaulle Airport. Whilst the sight of seeing six legged black bugs on a seat is quite terrifying, there has been a gradual rise in bed bug numbers in France, doubling around every 5 years. Again, although the idea that bed bugs are just a part of everyday life is disgusting, it is also in some ways reassuring. Maybe the hype that has been created around them is just people reacting to the issue. Bedbug numbers increase during the summer due to the rise in travel. Moreover, this is the first year where we are reaching pre-Covid travelling conditions and thus, maybe the public has just become more aware of the critters as we have become used to the lack of movement of the last three of years. This all suggests that bed bugs are not a political issue that needs to be addressed but more a natural phenomenon that occurs when there are more international travellers, especially considering the increase in visitors to France with Paris Fashion Week and the Rugby World Cup.

That said, if bedbug numbers are rising, then maybe it should be a political issue? Governments should have an element of responsibility to mitigate the rise and prevent an outbreak like the one in Paris happening in London. In the UK, there has been a 65% increase between 2022 and 2023 in the number of bedbugs. This increase demonstrates a need for this to be controlled, whether that be through public awareness or through government action. The use of social media aids the cause of public awareness as the increased hype can make more people aware of the situation and how to combat it. However, this is contingent on accurate information which is never guaranteed with social media. France have begun to tackle this as a political issue, both in the sense of solving the issue and through the opposition using the crisis as a way to dismiss President Macron. The Health Ministry of France have released statements telling the public both how to avoid an infestation and what to do if they have already entered the home. On top of this, the Transport Minister Clement Beaune held an emergency meeting to discuss how to mitigate the issue in the long term- this being Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s key word in any plans made to tackle the issue. Making this a long-term fix suggests that it is something that the French government are taking seriously with the possibility of it being declared a public health issue before the 2024 Olympics which are set to take place in Paris. Indeed, it is plausible that the fact that France is hosting this event is making the government view the bedbug issue in a more serious light.

But bedbugs have been spotted in London- most recently on the Victoria Line, highlighting that whilst not the plague that has been witnessed in Paris, something similar may be starting to brew in the UK. As previously stated, bedbug numbers in the UK have been increasing independent from the outbreak in Paris. The two events are not connected, suggesting that maybe this is not an epidemic but rather a future where the interconnectedness of humanity is causing the population of bedbugs to rise. Political engagement in this issue may not help to mitigate the rise in numbers, but by raising public awareness would help to calm the public and educate on how we can live with bedbugs.

Image: Matilda Wormwood via Pexels

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