Rats take over Montego Bay

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – In a bid to rid the island’s tourism capital of its worsening rat infestation problem, St. James health officials are now preparing a proposal to present to the St. James Parish Council.

“We are working on a rodent control programme, which is to be submitted to the parish council soon,” said Dr. Rao Panado, Medical Officer of Health in charge of the St. James Health Department, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

The proposal, which is to be submitted in the coming months, comes on the heels of steps taken by the Hanover Health Department, which recently conducted the first of its rodent control seminars to rid Lucea, the parish capital, of rats.

“When the rain fall I don’t know where the rats them appear from but we have to run. Them not afraid of anybody and dem big like mongoose,” said Montego Bay resident, Dawn Huggins. “The authorities need to do something because the rat dem walk around like them pay tax,” she added.

When The Gleaner contacted the St. James Parish Council yesterday, acting secretary/manager Claudette Corbett told The Gleaner that she was not aware of an infestation problem.

“I am hearing about it for the first time,” she said. “So, I could not tell you anything about it. We carry out regular drain cleanings – we have people cleaning the drains and no one has said anything to us.”

However, Anthony Pearson, president of the St. James Street Merchant Association, says differently. “Once it rains it is guaranteed that you are going to see the rats running out of the holes,” he said

The sight of huge rats running around the downtown area of Montego Bay is a regular source of terror for children, who are often seen cowering with fear or running away at the sight of the greasy rodents.

Diseases carried by rodents

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings, or saliva. Humans can contract the disease when they breathe in the aerosolized virus.

Murine Typhus: Murine typhus (caused by infection with R. typhi) occurs worldwide and is transmitted to humans by fleas which attach themselves to the rodents. Flea-infested rats can be found throughout the year in humid tropical environments.

Rat-bite fever is a systemic bacterial illness caused by Streptobacillus moniliformis that can be acquired through the bite or scratch of a rodent or the ingestion of food or water contaminated with rat faeces.

Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium: As its name suggests, it causes a typhoid-like disease in mice. In humans S. Typhimurium does not cause as severe a disease as S. Typhi, and is not normally fatal. The disease is characterised by diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and nausea, and generally lasts up to seven days.

Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans it causes a wide range of symptoms, and some infected persons may have no symptoms at all. Symptoms of leptospirosis include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting, and may include jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or a rash.

Eosinophilic Meningitis: Eosinophilic meningitis is an infection of the brain occurring in association with an increase in the number of eosinophils, white blood cells that are associated with infection with worms that penetrate into the body. The organism most commonly causing Eosinophilic meningitis is a rat lung worm called angiostrongylus cantonensis.