Professor Chiu Siu-wai from Chinese University affirms bedbugs are a common problem in Hong Kong

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Professor Chiu Siu-wai, an honorary senior research fellow of the Chinese University's School of Life Sciences

13th November 2023 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong, along with several nations in Europe and Asia, faces an escalating challenge with a burgeoning bedbug infestation. This concern intensified recently when images alleged to be of a bedbug nestled on an Airport Express train seat began making the rounds on social media.

The Chinese University’s School of Life Sciences Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Professor Chiu Siu-wai, addressed the issue during an appearance on RTHK’s Hong Kong Today programme. She explained that bedbugs, the hematophagous insects infamous for their biting habits, are not an unfamiliar nuisance in the city.

According to Professor Chiu, “Bedbugs, the notorious, blood-thirsty insects, are not uncommon in a bustling metropolis such as Hong Kong. Our survey in 2021 revealed that over one-sixth of the respondents had encountered these unwelcome guests in their residences.” She further elucidated that bedbugs are second only to mosquitoes in their popularity as blood-sucking insects in Hong Kong.

Given that bedbugs are hematophagous, there are potential risks of them harbouring numerous infectious pathogens. However, Professor Chiu clarified that currently, there is no empirical evidence to substantiate claims that these pests can transmit blood-borne diseases. Accordingly, certain nations have been hesitant to declare war against these insects.

The government, on the other hand, has taken proactive steps to keep the bed bug population in check. A recent briefing given by the administration addressed the issue comprehensively. The statement informed that Diane Wong, the acting secretary for Environment and Ecology, had convened a meeting with representatives from various sectors including the Airport Authority, the MTR Corporation, the hotel industry, the Tourism Commission, and several government departments. The agenda revolved around strategising to prevent a potential explosion of bed bug infestations.

When it comes to preventing such infestations, Professor Chiu emphasised the importance of good personal hygiene. However, she cautioned that bedbugs are challenging to control due to their rapid reproduction and ability to hide in narrow spaces. Additionally, she noted that many individuals remain oblivious to the presence of these pests in their homes, further complicating the eradication efforts.