UK: Expert issues warning over rising number of rats in cities
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The problem has become so bad one woman repeatedly has rats “climbing up her back wall” – while Southwark Council has been accused of “failing as landlords” by doing very little to tackle the “disgusting” problem. The Dodson and Amigo estate has been infested for months, according to 63-year-old Jacquie Gilmartin.
Yet another resident claimed the authority had waited almost two months before sending a pest control officer down to assess the problem.
Pictures shared with the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service show dead rats and mice in a number of properties, some with maggots crawling on them.
Another shows a rat which has been disembowelled in a communal garden.
Another photograph shows a rat which has been caught in a trap.
Mrs Gilmartin said: “This has gone on for months. “It’s disgusting – the council should be ashamed. This problem has been around since May and they’re still talking about these block treatments.
“Every single day they are failing us as landlords.”
Mrs Gilmartin, who said the estate was “alive” with rats and mice, was concerned about the health risk. She explained: “There are some people who are so vulnerable they’re not even aware.
“One woman’s got them crawling up her back wall. “What we’re saying is don’t just rely on the residents to sort out this problem.”
Another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “After we reported it we had to wait for six or seven weeks.
“As a landlord you’d think that would be a priority for health and safety.”
Southwark Council has said it is planning to undertake a large-scale pest treatment in September.
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Cllr Darren Merrill, cabinet member for a safer, cleaner borough, told Express.co.uk: “We began a full block treatment of Amigo House and Dodson Street in July and it will be done again starting in September, including the surrounding blocks. “We will write to confirm the schedule of works by letter to residents.”
London’s rodent problem was brought into sharp focus by an incident in July in which Susan Treftub claimed she was attacked by a “swarm” of rats while walking through a park in Ealing.
She commented: “I can’t be sure but I thought there were easily over 100. I felt like I was going to be sick.”
Rentokil Pest Control data shows that web traffic to its rodent advice pages jumped 37 percent in 2020.
Speaking to Express.co.uk afterwards, Paul Blackhurst, head of technical academy at Rentokil Pest Control, said the coronavirus pandemic, not to mention the lockdown, had likely swelled numbers.
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He explained: “Temporary business closures and lockdowns as a result of the coronavirus pandemic may have helped create favourable conditions for rodents.
“The quieter streets and unoccupied buildings offered them shelter and opportunities to exist undisturbed.
“It also contributed to a unique scenario where rodents became more frequently spotted during daylight hours, despite being timid and nocturnal creatures.”
This situation is likely to be created by increasing nest sizes, forcing less dominant rodents out of the nest in search of new opportunities to feed and breed.
Heavy rainfall was also a probable factor he said, adding: “Rats are also very resourceful and can use damaged pipework, plumbing, or cracks to enter properties.
“So it’s conceivable that we could see more rodents making their way into people’s homes and businesses following the recent wild weather in London and across the country.”
He also warned: “Rodents play a role in the transmission of many disease-causing pathogens to humans.
“One of the biggest threats is that rats carry Leptospires, which can cause Weil’s disease in humans if they are bitten or come into contact with rodent urine.
“Rat-bite fever is also a risk to humans if bitten or scratched by an infected rat.
“This can cause symptoms lasting up to 10 days, including fever, vomiting, joint pain and a rash.”
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