A plague of rats could spread killer diseases, the Bermuda Hospitals Board chief of medicine warned yesterday.
Michael Ashton said rats could transmit serious diseases to humans — and that some could be fatal.
Dr Ashton explained: “Rats are known vectors for many bacteria and viruses.
“In Bermuda, we would be most concerned about bacteria such as salmonella — which can be transmitted through faecal contamination of food or water then consumed by humans.
“Salmonella can cause severe gastrointestinal and systemic infections in humans.”
Dr Ashton added: “Another pathogen of potential concern is leptospirosis, which is a bacteria transmitted through urine.
“Rodents can be reservoirs of leptospirosis and transmit the pathogen to other animals and humans by urinary contamination of food or water.
“Spread of the disease can be a particular problem in warmer climates. Human cases can be fatal and difficult to diagnose.”
Dr Ashton said leptospirosis had been found in animals in Bermuda, but that no human case had been diagnosed.
He added: “It is important for the public to understand that an increased rat population poses a risk to humans and other animals due to their potential to harbour and transmit infectious diseases.”
Dr Ashton was speaking after residents across the island reported an increased number of rats in their areas.
He said: “Prevention through public education and systems management is paramount with infectious diseases.
“Any potential rise in the rat population has implications not only for animal and human health, but also for our economy due to its dependence on a healthy and clean environment.”
Richard Walker-Talbot, from Sandys, said rat numbers had “absolutely” increased since trash collection was reduced to once a week.
He added: “Once a week is just not enough for the pick-up and it’s obviously just giving foods to the rats.”
But he said: “People aren’t going to conform. They’re going to put their trash out before pick up days”.
Mr Walker-Talbot said that he spotted “at least two rats daily” in his neighbourhood.
He added: “I have young children so it doesn’t make me feel comfortable to see rats running around the playground.”
And Mr Walker-Talbot said: “It’s bad for Bermuda’s tourism industry — the last thing a tourist wants to see after getting off the cruise ship or out of the hotel is rats everywhere”.
A Smith’s householder, who asked not to be named, added that the rat problem had increased “certainly within the last ten years”.
The man said: “There are a hell of a lot more rats than I’m used to seeing. I don’t think it’s ever been as bad as it is now.”
The resident, who has lived in Smith’s since he was a child, added: “Back in the Sixties, you hardly saw rats”
And he warned: “The epidemic will grow. If left unattended it will get worse and we will have more and more rats.”
The man said that the Government had to do more to tackle the problem.
He added: “They’re not following up and that’s the biggest part of doing any particular practice.”
Charles Langton, from Devonshire, said that the rat problem was “certainly getting out of control, there’s rats everywhere”.
Mr Langton claimed that Vector Control “doesn’t seem to care”.
He said: “I tried to call Vector Control about ten times, but nobody ever answered the phone. Vector is not doing their job right now, that’s the bottom line.”
He added: “Each bait box used to contain six units of poison, now they only put two.”