(BBC) South Korean authorities are working to contain bedbug infestations that have caused concern across the country.
At least 17 outbreaks have been reported in the capital of Seoul and in the cities of Busan and Incheon as of 5 November, local media report.
Seoul has set aside 500 million won ($383,000; £310,000) and put up a response team against the bedbugs.
Before South Korea, bedbugs have also been sighted in France and the UK causing panic in some communities.
Bedbug infestations in South Korea were reported as early as September, at a university in Daegu city in the southwest.
The blood-sucking insects were later reported in tourist accommodations and a public sauna.
Some South Koreans have been staying away from cinemas and public transportation out of fear of bedbugs.
South Korea’s EDaily News reported that a 34-year-old Seoul resident, Ms Choi, would avoid riding subway trains with fabric seats for the time being.
Ms Choi had also been spraying pesticide “all over” her house in fear that bedbugs would “suddenly appear”, the report said.
EDaily News also reported that another local, Mr Seo, had that they would be staying home with his girlfriend for the time being.
Before the recent outbreak, South Korea was thought to have eradicated bedbugs after a nationwide extermination campaign in the 1960s.
While bedbugs do not transmit disease, their bites can cause intense itching. Scratching to relieve the itch can cause wounds that may lead infections or scarring.
The wingless pests, which often clutter near beds or in crevices, are also known to extract an emotional toll. Those living with bedbugs can feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or even fear sleeping.
People in Seoul have been flocking to public health centres, asking to have their insect bites checked and seeking advice on measures they should take, local reports say.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is scheduled to inspect some 3,200 public facilities, including hotels and bathhouses, to assess their sanitary conditions.
The government will also meet with private experts to discuss best practices in controlling bedbugs.
Seoul plans to hot-steam fabric seats on subways across the city on a regular basis and replace fabric seating with other materials, local reports said.
Authorities’ recent recommendations to use certain types of pesticides against bedbugs have sparked controversy as recent studies have deemed them ineffective, South Korean national daily JoongAng Daily reported.
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