Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that bed bugs have been found on French SNCF overnight trains from Nice to Metz. New bookings have been suspended for a week while the three affected coaches have been taken out of service and “disinfected”.
“In summer the risks of infestation are much greater because of the heat. As a result we’ve stepped up our cleaning routine for the sleeping compartments,” an official said.
Well, now that bed bugs are an epidemic everywhere, we should expect bed bug infestations year round, anywhere. And not just on overnight services, either. Cleaning routines need to be altered and stepped up in all areas where bed bugs can take root, including normal seats on trains and other transportation modes.
Pest control experts should be helping organizations of all kinds plan protocols to prevent bed bugs, and protocols for dealing with bed bugs should an infestation occur. Train, bus, and airline personnel should be trained to clean preventively, and taught to recognize the more subtle signs of bed bugs.
By “subtle signs of bed bugs,” I mean more subtle than, for example, people running, screaming, from a train overnight compartment, screaming “Mon Dieu!”
Apparently Reuters offered another take on the same story, as shown in the Scotsman, here. I think you’ll find it interesting:
Bed bugs were a rare occurrence, [an unnamed SNCF official] added.
“It’s the kind of little animal that unfortunately you’ll only notice when they bite. There’s no other way to detect them. They are so small.”
Contrasting with the promises to step up cleaning procedures (as per the AFP story), this statement about the impossibility of detection is only somewhat accurate. It is difficult to find actual bed bugs, but not because they are small. Yes, 1st instar nyphs are only 1/32″ or 1 mm long, but adults are 1/6″ or 6 mm long. If they sat around in plain view, you’d have no trouble seeing them. They’re extremely stealthy and can hide in the thinnest cracks–instead of letting SNCF off the hook for not finding bed bugs, this speaks to the need for more careful searching and more thorough cleaning to detect and prevent them.
And it is not impossible to see their signs; housekeeping staff, porters, repair workers, and ticket collectors, and others who work in hotels, hostels, sleeper cars, other train cars, planes, and buses can and should be trained to look for subtler signs of bed bugs: fecal stains, fecal specks, and bloodstains (tiny, thin, or larger) on the seat, bed, or bedsheets, and bed bug cast shells, can all be watched for, as can bed bugs. Staff not trained in this way will often assume they’re seeing something innocuous (carpet beetles, roaches, whatever), when they do actually encounter a bed bug.
What’s more, bed bugs are no longer a “rare occurrence,” neither where I live in NYC, nor in France. They’re growing to epidemic proportions worldwide. Click on the Cluster Map on the inner right sidebar (at the top) if you want to see where this site’s visitors have come from since June 2nd, 2007. This SNCF official needs to be brought up to speed.