They’re a global nightmare. First they haunted Paris last month, before panic over potential outbreaks gripped Europe and the U.S. Now, bedbugs are terrifying a number of countries in Asia, where surges in infestations of the pest are fueling fresh anxieties among the public and stirring governments to action.
Since the start of November, South Korea has embarked on a fierce campaign against the bloodsucking critters. Bedbugs had been largely eradicated there during a national extermination drive in the 1960s, but the country is now experiencing a worrying revival in cases. Besides the establishment of an interministry task force dedicated to tackling bedbugs, both national and regional governments kickstarted a four-week campaign on Monday to disinfect high-risk spaces such as bathhouses and public transportation. And on the ground, concerned South Koreans have created websites with interactive maps to keep track of bedbug infestations across the country.
Bedbug fears are also rising in densely populated Hong Kong, where authorities are trying to assuage public worries about them potentially being brought to the enclave via South Korea. The city’s airport has begun distributing leaflets on bedbug transmission to arriving travelers. Hong Kong’s rail corporation also said that it had deep cleaned its Airport Express train after a viral photo showed what social media users speculated to be a bedbug on one of its train seats. While lawmakers have urged the government to issue cleaning guidelines to high-risk spaces, residents have begun taking precautions into their own hands, with insecticides flying off the shelves in recent weeks. Shopline, a local e-commerce platform said they saw sales of anti-bedbug products jump by a factor of 172 during the recent Nov. 11 “Singles’ Day” shopping spree.
The rise in bedbug infestations is commonly correlated with human travel—the parasitic insects can hide in crevices like clothing and suitcases, and they can be carried across borders by travelers. Experts have warned of a global resurgence of bedbugs over the last two decades, as the microscopic menaces have developed resistance to common insecticides and become remarkably efficient at multiplying their numbers through inbreeding.
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