Police in Greece have launched a manhunt for hoaxers who tried to scare foreign tourists out of some Athens short-term rental flats by inventing a bedbug crisis.
The Health Ministry on Tuesday said posters stuck up outside flat buildings in the district of Exarchia, at the center of the Greek capital, festooned with fake ministry and Athens municipality logos, were “absolutely false.”
The posters claimed health authorities had ordered local “private guest houses” to be evacuated “to protect the public health of permanent Greek tenants.”
Citing a nonexistent bedbug infestation, they threatened visitors with a €500 fine (US$540) for failure to leave their accommodation and politely wished them a pleasant stay in Greece.
The health ministry said it had informed the police “to do what is necessary” in relation to the hoax. It said that “nobody is allowed to terrorize and misinform the public” on public health issues.
Greece has not recorded any major trouble with the bloodsucking bedbugs that have recently caused consternation in France.
Still, a tourism official revealed in October that a hotel in an Athens resort had to close a wing to proceed with disinfection. “Some of the guests, mainly from France, carried the insects and unfortunately they also got stuck in the hotel,” President of the Food and Tourism Workers Union Giorgos Hotzoglou said.
He reassured the public, however, that this is the only known case of a hotel in Greece infested with bedbugs.
Recently, viral videos showing insects that look like bedbugs on the Paris metro and trains as well as sightings of bedbugs in movie theaters and at the airport had fueled fears of a widespread outbreak across the city.
Both the local Parisian government and President Emmanuel Macron’s government urged for action in relation to the bedbug issue in the city. This demonstrated the severity of the problem and how vital it is to maintain a positive image of Paris leading up to the 2024 Olympic Games.
Every late summer, there is a significant rise in bedbugs, said Jean-Michel Berenger, an expert on bedbugs in France who works as an entomologist at Marseille’s main hospital.
“Bedbugs are small wingless insects that bite humans and feast on our blood, often at night,” said Benji Jones a senior environmental reporter at Vox. “They find us by sensing the carbon dioxide in our breath and our body heat.”
“While bedbugs can carry a large number of pathogens, they don’t seem to transmit diseases to humans, though they do produce itchy welts,” he added.