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Rising population of rodents goes unnoticed in twin cities

Rising population of rodents goes unnoticed in twin cities

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People in danger of diseases carried by rodents and transmitted to
humans particularly in thickly-populated areas in a congested environment

Islamabad

None of the concerned government authorities have been giving attention to the ever-increasing population of rodents, particularly rats and mice, which is posing a serious health threat to public as well causing enormous losses to their goods, both eatables and non-eatables.

In recent past, there have been instances when the rats have severely bitten neonates and infants but the federal government and the Punjab government have not launched any campaign to control growth of rodents.

The rats can be seen commonly at railway station, hospitals, dormitories, ware houses, big food stores, hostels and in sewers. Rats survive in big buildings, stations, wedding halls and hospitals where they are live in ventilating or air-conditioning ducts, as they get ample supply of left over foods from the kitchen or patient rooms, visiting rooms, waiting areas and wards. Besides causing other damage they also cause damage to the refrigeration system and electric wires and wooden panels. Some of these give fearful site like monsters as they are well fed to reach the size of almost a cat.

The population of rats is continuously increasing in twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi putting human population at risk of serious viral and bacterial diseases, said Assistant District Health Officer at Islamabad Capital Territory Health Department Dr. Muhammad Najeeb Durrani while talking to ‘The News’ on Tuesday.

The population of rodents has migrated to towns from their original basic habitat, the fields because of increasing urbanisation of villages and better and easily available food in urban limits, said Dr. Durrani, who is an epidemiologist and a member of the Global Outbreak Alert & Response Network (GOARN).

He said solid waste, trash and garbage containers are causes of increased growth of rodents. The wedding halls, restaurants, local hotels and fast food outlets are also the main source of the spread of rodents as excessive food is always there that is left in dust bins for rats, dogs and cats to thrive on, he said.

To a query, he said the problem in our society is that our policy makers and those who are in a position to decide or plan, do not have a contingency plan at the institutional or organizational level for getting rid from the ever increasing number of rodents and their menace. The procurement of effective WHO pre-qualified rodenticides is highly advisable along with training of sanitary workers to detect the rodents, kill them and safely dispose them off by burying as specified in guidelines to avoid health hazards of serious nature, said Dr. Durrani.

He said besides diseases, rats are also a potential source of allergens. Their droppings, dander and shed hair can cause people to sneeze and

experience other allergic reactions, he explained.

He said in hospitals, the rats create nuisance and fear among bed ridden immobile patients and infants and there have been reports of rat-bites in recent past. This is high time that the health departments at both the federal and the provincial level must think to develop contingency plans to procure rodenticides and depute sanitary inspectors in the hospitals to control the ever increasing growth of rats and mice besides removing their safe hideouts in the buildings, he said.

He added the building departments and construction companies must also do complete fencing of the ducts and sewers to avoid their crossing into the main buildings. “The building departments must own the responsibility and seal any entry holes, as small as 1/2 inch, with steel mesh, which rats cannot chew through.”

He added the safe disposal of leftover food is also mandatory and we must learn as a nation not to produce extra food that would later be destroyed and thrown away. “As a Muslim nation, we must know the golden principle of Islam not to go for wastage of food.”

He said there are certain diseases that are carried by rats and mice and transmitted to humans particularly in thickly populated areas in a congested environment.

Diseases transmitted by rats fall into one of two categories: diseases transmitted directly from exposure to rat-infected faeces, urine or bites and diseases indirectly transmitted to people by an intermediate arthropod vector such as fleas, ticks or mites, explained Dr. Durrani.

He said hantavirus is an emerging viral disease that is spreading to humans through rodents. Hantavirus syndrome is serious and can be fatal. Hantaviruses are the most widely distributed zoonotic rodent-borne viruses. Certain occupational groups — such as farmers, sweepers and labourers who are likely to have high exposure to infected dust — and those living in environment with rats are at higher risk of infection, said Dr. Durrani.

He said the mode of transmission is inhalation of the virus in aerosols from urine or faeces of infected rodents, particularly in the dry summer season.

Talking of another disease, he said leptospirosis is a common, zoonotic, bacterial disease that affects both humans and animals. “It is considered an emerging disease as it is increasingly being reported from various parts of the world.”

He said rat-bite fever can also be serious that is caused through a bite, scratch or even contact with a dead rat. Consuming food or water that is contaminated by rat faeces bacteria can cause Salmonellosis, he said.

Finally, talking of plague, Dr. Durrani said it is an acute, communicable disease caused by a bacterium and transmitted to man by the bite of infected rat fleas. These fleas rest and survive on the skin of the rats. It is primarily a disease of rodents, and humans are affected incidentally, he explained.

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