Image for Representation/Photo: medicalnewstoday
Initially emerging in Paris, the resurgence of bedbugs has extended its reach to cities like Seoul, Hong Kong, and Singapore, prompting concerns about a potential outbreak in parts of Asia.
South Korea has taken proactive measures, launching a four-week campaign against bedbugs following numerous reports of infestations that stirred public anxiety.
This development raises questions about the reasons behind these bedbug outbreaks, their potential escalation, and the health implications, all of which will be elucidated by FIT.
Tracing the Historical Presence of Bedbugs The historical connection between bedbugs and humans dates back 3,550 years to an Egyptian archaeological site.
During the Roman era, bedbugs were prevalent in the Mediterranean, spreading globally with the booming shipping trade.
By the early 20th century, bedbugs had become pervasive, leading to extreme measures such as burning down entire structures to eradicate infestations.
London hotels in the 1800s were so heavily infested that lodgers were advised to consume alcohol to induce sleep.
Current Bedbug Outbreaks Worldwide In the past two decades, there has been a notable “global resurgence” in bedbugs, with instances such as a 4,500 percent increase in bedbug infestations in Australia between 1999 and 2006.
In 2010, major cities like New York faced significant bedbug challenges. However, 2023 has witnessed an unusually high number of incidents, starting in Paris.
Videos depicting bedbugs swarming the Paris metro surfaced in late September, heightening concerns about a widespread outbreak.
In South Korea, the first signs of bedbugs emerged in a sauna in Incheon, spreading to university dormitories and single-room accommodations (gosiwons).
The government has reported at least 13 confirmed cases in the past few days, prompting thorough inspections at Seoul airport where teams in hazmat suits search for bedbug infestations.
Hong Kong also experienced a stir when a bedbug sighting on an airport train garnered significant attention.
The current surge in bedbug infestations globally can be attributed, in part, to the heightened resistance of new generations of bedbugs to chemicals like DDT used for treatment.
These contemporary bedbugs have evolved with thicker exoskeletons, rendering them resistant to pesticides.
Bedbugs’ walking behavior limits the absorption of toxins, and in cases where they do absorb some chemicals, they have developed enzymes to neutralize them.
Population density and travel are additional factors contributing to the spread of bedbugs.
Cities like Paris and Seoul, with high population densities (20,641 inhabitants per sq km and 15,600 people per sq km, respectively), are experiencing outbreaks, compounded by the increased mobility of people.
While the health risks posed by bedbugs are relatively minor, causing itchy bites and a slight risk of allergies and secondary infections, the psychological impact can be substantial.
(Inputs from The Quint)