In school you probably learned about the Black Death, a devastating pandemic that wreaked havoc and destruction throughout Europe in the 14th Century. The disease responsible for so many deaths was the Bubonic plague, caused by a blood-borne bacterium spread through fleas that lived on black rats in merchant ships.
Although the bacterium was the cause, and fleas were the real mechanism for the spread of the disease, rats were the means of transport that allowed the pandemic to sweep uncontrollably across the world.
Diseases Carried By Rats
Frighteningly, the Plague is not the only disease rats can carry. The modern brown rat, which displaced the black rat from the Plague era, carries a high number of pathogens which cause a large number of diseases including Q fever, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, cryptosporidiosis and viral hemorrhagic fever.
It also carries a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, the disease that affects immunocompromised people and can result in brain inflammation, cancer, schizophrenia and death.
Rats can also cause food poisoning as they are carriers of the salmonella bacterium, which can spread to humans if they consume contaminated food. The rats leave their droppings on and around food areas, which causes the food to become infected.
Ways to Discourage Rats From Entering Your Home
Rat control is not easy. Rats breed prolifically; a pair of brown rats is capable of producing 2,000 babies in a single year. A doe will begin breeding as soon as the babies are born. It is said that in a major city, we are no more than a few feet from a rat at any given time. How then can you protect your home from these disease-carrying vermin? If you already have a rat problem, you want to take care of it as soon as possible. The most efficient method of doing this is to call a pest control company, but if you’d like to try it yourself you can use spring traps, glue traps or poison to catch them. These are often not pet-friendly, so if you’ve got a pet you’re advised to call the professionals, who will kill the rats and remove all poisons and carcasses afterwards.
However, once the problem is gone the key is to keep them away. The best way to do this is to remove the source that is attracting the rats and to block up their entry points. Look for small holes as rats can squeeze through a gap that is only as wide as its head. Take care of the holes with mortar or a strong filler as rats will gnaw through cardboard and wood.
The kitchen is a prime source of food and shelter for the rat. You’ll need to remove open and closed packages and store them in strong plastic or metal containers. Wipe out the shelves thoroughly and look for small black droppings, as these are indications that rats have already been in your pantry. Sweep under the kitchen counter and throw away rubbish regularly.
For a healthy lifestyle, it’s imperative that you sort out your rat problem immediately. You can protect your family by discouraging them from entering your home – and minimise the risk of sickness!
Kate Lee is a freelance writer and contributor to many pest control websites, including Insight Pest Solutions. She specialises in natural and environmentally-friendly solutions to pest problems.