Rat populations can grow and easily get out of control anywhere. Vacant lots that have grown up, older homes with a lot of oak trees, and restaurants are just a few places that attract rats. They aren't just a nasty animal, they are a very serious health risk to people because of the diseases they carry and can potentially spread.
New Orleans has been trapping and studying the rats there and what they have found is alarming. Michael Blum heads up the New Orleans Rat Project for Tulane University.
For the last three years, he and his team have trapped rodents across the city. What they've found has raised serious concerns about public health risks in the metro area - the potential spread of deadly diseases.
"So surprisingly, things which historically were known to be present in the city and then over time have thought to have been eradicated or at least reduced. So for example, we see a highly diverse assemblage of bartonella which is a bacterial pathogen of concern. We also see Leptospira, which is something which if it goes untreated, again, a bacterial pathogen of concern, it would be fatal. We see remarkably things that we associate in far-flung areas like Hanta virus that are endemic to the city," said Blum.
Another important question is whether people are getting sick. Blum said doctors may overlook or misdiagnose these diseases. "So, if somebody comes in with Leptospirosis, for example, it very well may likely be registered as the flu or a fever or something, so it's going to be treated with a broad spectrum antibiotic and it goes away," said Blum.
To give you an idea of just how dangerous Leptospirosis can be, according to the New York City Health Department, three people contracted the disease in the Bronx this month. Two recovered, but one person died. Now, health officials there are working to reduce the rat population and educate neighbors.
"Rodents in general, small mammals, will transmit Leptospira by way of excreting into waterways so Leptospira will be in waterways, canals, ditches whatnot, puddles even, and then by virtue of perhaps even just sticking your hand in contaminated water you can be infected by the bacteria." said Blum.
The best thing is to call in a company that handles rat extermination, like Phoenix Pest Management & Wildlife Control. The diseases are transmitted in their droppings and urine, which they leave everywhere, so it's important to wear gloves and a face mask when exterminating rats and rodents. There is no reason to be afraid of them, but it's important to keep a safe distance and know the risks involved.
Don't put out poison in an attempt to kill them yourself. There is no way to control who gets into the poison and there is a huge risk to other animals. There was just an incident in Idaho where Kivi TV reported that rat poison killed 50 crows. It's illegal to poison animals so leave it to the experts.
The best method of rodent control is to keep things clean. Vacant lots should be kept mowed, trash cans should have a tight lid kept on when there is trash in them. Restaurants should be sure there are no food scraps and the outside areas are kept clean and sanitary.
Source: Fox 8 Live