Rats have always been major pests in cities throughout the world. The rat population in Kuala Lumpur, in particualar, was estimated at 6.8 millions in 2013. That’s nearly five times the human population in the city which is around 1.58 millions. Yet the rats’ true abomination isn’t in their shocking numbers only, but also the deadly diseases they carry in their urine and droppings such as leptospirosis.
Since 2012, the Health Ministry has reported more 1,418 cases of infection and 62 deaths due to leptospirosis. Majority of the patients suffering from leptospirosis have been found to come in contact with rat urine before the onset of the disease. Currently, no viable cure or effective treatment is available for leptospirosis. If the disease is not managed early, the patient might develop meningitis, kidney damage, liver failure and respiratory distress which could lead to death.
Residential and industrial areas are the most favourite breeding ground for rodents. Most of the rodents spotted in these areas fall under two species; the house rat Rattus rattus and the Norway Rattus norvegicus. The population of these two rodent species has grown to an alarming rate due to poor waste management and sanitation practice. Nowadays, it isn’t hard to spot one in residential areas, restaurants, airports and even hospitals. Other factors that escalated the rat problem are the rapid rate of urbanization and the improper planning of population centres.
The increase in rat population in KL has also increase the likelihood of human contact with them. Rat living and breeding in close proximity to humans pose serious harm to human health, welfare as well as the economy.
Besides leptospirosis, rats also blamed for a wide range of diseases including salmonellosis. Patients with salmonellosis is struck by diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting that may lasts up to seven days. The disease causes depressed immune systems in the elderly and children and can be fatal if not treated early with antibiotics.
Wide scale rat hunt have been undertaken by some local authorities. Nonetheless, it did little to reduce the rat population that continued in rising thanks to the lack of hygiene and poor sanitation in many public and private sectors.
Giving the high reproductive rate of female rats, experts expect the rat numbers to double and triple within few years, if no control measures are not taken. There are countless rat control methods from bating, to gassing to hunting. Nonetheless, eliminating of rat nesting, breeding sites and food sources have remained the most effective one.
This method is performed by sealing of doors, windows and any other openings that allow rats to infiltrate homes and other premises. Another way to tackle the rat problem is by educating the public about health risks posed by rats and the ways to avoid these risk via proper hygiene and wast handling.
While public sanitation is the responsibility of everyone, authorities play major rule in addressing the rat problem by carrying out frequent inspections in restaurants and any premises where food is stored, distributed or sold. Rats thrive and reproduced wherever food is, and the best way to control their population is by eliminating their access to it.