Pascal Delaunay, an expert in insects and parasites and who is leading a large study on the topic warned that the bugs were multiplying, fast.
“For five years companies that deal with insects have seen a five to fifteen-fold increase in the number of incidents,” he told the Le Parisien daily.
Delauney called for action to tackle the problem.
“We are at the start of the contamination and in the expansion phase. The situation is not yet critical but we must take action,”
The tiny brown parasitic insects are known as “punaises de lit” in French (literally, bed drawing pins). They measure around 5 millimetres and like to live indoors, particularly in beds and curtains close to where people sleep. They feast on human blood, usually at night when they are not noticed, and leave small marks similar to mosquito bites.
In New York, official bed bug reports by the health department increased from 82 in 2004 to 4,084 in 2009. The issue became headline news across the United States in 2010 as the number of cases increased nationwide. The bugs have infested some of New Yorks’ most luxurious hotels as well as cinemas and store changing rooms.
A report in online magazine the Daily Beast found that the worst cities in the US were Cincinatti, Columbus and Chicago.
Other cities to have been infected include Sydney, Montreal and, more recently, London.
The insects can spread by travelling unnoticed in suitcases or clothes, finding a new home to settle in when they get to a new destination.
Treatment can be expensive and is not always effective.
“Getting rid of them can cost from €150 to €400 ($200 to $550),” says Pascal Delaunay.
“Certain treatments will even make the situation worse. Public authorities must take note of this problem before it explodes.”