With the Pikitup strike headlining countless news channels, homeowners and businesses alike have had to contend with piles of rubbish on the streets. Not only are the smells difficult to stomach, but also the health, financial and pest-related consequences that the lack of refuse removal brings about.
A Pinky and the Brain situation – the city has gone insane!
I have always thought that Pinky and the Brain was children’s television programme but with the rubbish piling up, especially in informal settlements, the current rodent situation is getting out of hand. I can just imagine a scene from this famous show with Pinky asking “What are we doing tonight, Brain?” and Brain responding in the typical bad-guy demeanour, “why, take over the world!” They would then help themselves to a feast a la dumpster before continuing to gain a rat following and instructing them to take over Gauteng. Now that is not the type of rat control I am talking about!
Well, that might be a bit far-fetched, but the reality is that during the March/April and October/November months there is usually a seasonal increase of rodent activity and to make matters worse, the Pikitup strike – which is going well into its fifth week – is escalating this situation. Many areas haven’t seen any form of garbage collection, and the heaps of rubbish are convenient food sources for rodents. Since they need food and shelter to survive, the lack of waste management contributes to an increase in reported rat infestation problems.
A rat discovered in Tembisa with plague antibodies
The National institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the environmental health services have collected samples in Mayibuye in Tembisa that had been tested for rodent-borne diseases. They had then discovered that of the thirteen rodents tested, one of them has been tested positive for plague antibodies (in the 14th century in Europe, the bubonic plague was referred to as the “Black death”).
According to John Frean, Associate Professor at the Centre for Opportunistic, Tropical and Hospital Infections at the NICD, that there no need to be concerned about the bubonic plague as measures have been put in place to ensure that this doesn’t occur in humans. Flea control is being implemented to protect the community where the rat has been found. According to the WHO, the plague is caused by bacteria Yersinia Pestis. This is spread through fleas which are the carriers of this disease that attach themselves to rats, and then via rats, or even directly to humans through flea bites.
Frean also stated that there is no need for concern since “there is no evidence of current infection, only of previous exposure.” Furthermore, Frean said that no unusual rodent mortality has been documented, meaning that there is no outbreak of the plague at taking place, so thus posing no immediate threat to humans.
The City of Johannesburg is currently implementing contingency plans to prevent the waste from piling up further. The sooner garbage collection can resume, the better the chance there is of curbing a wide-spread rat problem.
Tips for preventing a rat infestation
The most important step in preventing a rat problem is limiting their food supply (such as uncollected refuse), so this means ensuring that rubbish is placed inside bins which have tightly sealed lids. Leaving black bags on the pavement is an invitation to rodents that can easily tear open the bags with their teeth.
Another tip to avoid a rat infestation is to keep compost enclosed and covered wherever possible, and get rid of garden refuse regularly as this is another easy source of food for rats.
Rat Fact: Rats can fit into space the size of a coin. Their bodies contain soft cartilage which makes it possible for them to squeeze through spaces and gaps that at first glance may appear much too small for them. Small cracks or holes in floors, pavement grates or vents are an easy way to get to food or a warm area.
Rats are also apt diggers and climbers! They are able to dig under building foundations or openly use windows or doors to gain access to food and water. Taking these facts into account, Mario Pluke, Rentokil’s Technical manager, shares basic housekeeping measures that you can put in place to prevent a rat infestation:
1. Seal all cracks and gaps in exterior walls which provide access to voids or interior areas
2. Fill all cracks in slabs and gaps in expansion joints
3. Clean up all food spillages immediately.
4. Pet food and bird seed can attract rats and should therefore never be left standing out.
5. Overhanging trees should be pruned , and pipes covered with chicken wire to prevent rodents entering through the roof.
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The above tips are only a few rat control tips to prevent an infestation, but since they breed at rapid rates, a rat problem can quickly escalate. Furthermore as mentioned earlier, since fleas are carriers of harmful diseases, it is important to contact Rentokil if you experience rat or flea problems for effective and professional rat and flea control solutions.