rats, rats! Hundreds, thousands, millions of them." This
is a line from Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel. But
reality is getting closer to the fiction in the North West as there’s
been a dramatic increase in the rat population recently.
North West’s rat population has increased by twice the national
average in the past year.
spend less time in the sewers and more in our rubbish|
estimate that there are now 60 million rats in the UK.
one for every person.
are many possible reasons for this increase:
in pest control expenditure
in takeaway food shops and food litter
the biggest reasons is our rubbish - the increase in it and often
careless disposal of it.
it’s throwing our chip paper on the floor or leaving bags of rubbish
outside - disease-carrying rodents thrive on it.
John Ashton is the North West’s Director of Public Health.
there's crowds, there's litter - and hungry rats|
says, "The Victorians worked very hard to put in place street cleaning
and inspection systems."
let it go to the dogs over the past 30 years."
are a very serious risk to public health and we’ve got to keep on
top of rats."
black death is believed to have killed almost one third of the population
are commonly blamed for carrying it.
black death forced the Victorians to think drastically about street
we are not currently at risk from a repeat of the black death, rats
do carry risks of other diseases. These include:
and mouth disease
back to basic hygiene on the streets and careful disposal of rubbish
is one way we can stop the problem getting worse.
Keep Britain Tidy Group currently have a campaign to encourage this.
Ashton said, "The shops should be taking more responsibility clearing
up after themselves."
no enforcement at present… I would personally like to see fines
wardens keep watch for discarded rubbish which could attract
super-clean food shops blame the public for the rat problem.
householders blame the council for not providing wheelie bins.
an obvious problem in the North West and elsewhere across the country.
to blame - but maybe we all are.
Public health concern
Out’s Tony Morris talks to the North West’s Director of Public Health,
Professor John Ashton
how worried are you?
I think it’s really worrying. The
Victorians worked very hard to put in place street cleaning
and all kinds of inspection systems, we’ve let it go to the
dogs over the past 30 years. Rats
are a very serious risk to public health and we’ve got to
keep on top of rats.
sort of diseases do they carry?
are whole lot of them, virus things, parasitic things - we
know about the plague, we know what that did to the population
in the middle ages. And
it’s a biological weapon that can be used if certain groups
wanted to do that. Rats
are a vector for plague. They also carry all sorts of other
also sometimes get infected by leptospirosis caused by rats’
urine found on the river bank. It’s
a very rare disease at the moment. Research
shows in recent years they can carry some awful things.
viruses, like the plague - they carry all sorts of toxins.
Research shows they carry all sorts of this. They’re
out there on a Friday and Saturday night when the streets
are deserted and the kids have gone home and there’s all this
stuff on the streets. The
rats come out and have a banquet.
the plague will worry a lot of people. We’re not at that stage
we’re not at that stage, but the point is the Victorians laboured
hard to prevent these diseases. We
are just taking our chances now.We’re
allowing the rat population to come back. In
recent years we’ve seen a lot of diseases brought in by animals
and crossing across to humans. We
know that rats can do that. We are stupid if we don’t get
back to basics with hygiene on the streets.
do we do that?
- I personally would like to see fines that are imposed. When
was the last time in Manchester and Rochdale [that people]
were fined for throwing chip papers on the pavement? There’s
no enforcement at the present time. The
shops should be taking more responsibility, clearing up the
streets after themselves and the pavements. They
should be providing receptacles and using a lot less of disposable
containers as well.