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Another country declares war on bedbugs

South Korea’s government has launched a four-week campaign against the blood-sucking insects amid a public panic

The South Korean government is launching a plan to combat bedbugs amid a growing number of reports of the pests being discovered: the pests have been spotted in 17 cities and provinces across the country so far. The Asian nation is the latest to address the problem, and authorities have not ruled out the possibility that the insects could have been brought in by travelers from France.

The measures include inspecting and disinfecting thousands of public facilities where the blood-sucking insects may be hiding.

Bedbugs, which have recently been spreading in France and other Western states, may have appeared in the Asian country “along with foreign tourists, who have increased their arrivals since the end of the coronavirus pandemic,” the spokesman for South Korea’s ruling conservative People’s Power Party said on Thursday.

The official said the pests were thought to have been absent from Korea since the 1970s, when toxic DDT pesticides became more widely available. In mid-September, however, a bedbug infestation was reported at a university dormitory in the city of Daegu. A few weeks later, the blood-sucking insects were discovered in a sauna in Incheon.

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As of Tuesday, about 30 cases had been reported nationwide, local media said, citing the joint national headquarters set up to combat the bedbug menace. Most of the cases have occurred in the capital, Seoul, a city of more than 9.6 million people.

On Friday, the Ministry of Health and Welfare held a meeting to address the problem. According to a subsequent press release, inspections of accommodations, bathing and medical facilities will be carried out from November 13 to December 8.

Minister of the Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min said on Wednesday that “the public seems to be too anxious,” describing the bedbug situation as “serious,” according to media reports. He said the outbreak “started in the Paris area” and that the pests may have been brought in by travelers. “Of course, it is also possible that they are indigenous to the country, but we haven’t received any reports about that yet,” the minister added.

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Since Wednesday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency has been issuing instructions on pest avoidance to people arriving from countries with confirmed bedbug outbreaks, such as France and the United Kingdom, the Korean Herald reported.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) announced Wednesday that it is promoting a citywide bedbug-free project by establishing a pest control system to quickly respond to the recent spike in bedbug reports. The statement noted that while bed bugs don’t carry infectious diseases, they feed on human blood, causing not only inconvenience but allergic reactions and even mental fatigue.

Reports of the blood-sucking insects in South Korea came after France was hit by a bedbug outbreak last month, following Paris’ hosting of Fashion Week and the Rugby World Cup. Both events attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.

This sparked fears of a possible bedbug outbreak in the UK, as some residents also noticed bedbugs in public places. In early November, one of London’s libraries was closed due to an infestation.

 

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