Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Rats invade kids’ haven - Salvation Army Basic School and children’s home being overrun by pesky rodents

Published:Sunday | April 2, 2017 | 4:00 AMRyon Jones
A rat comes out of hiding as it goes in search of food at a garbage skip just outside of the Salvation Army’s Children’s Home.
A huge rat goes in search of food just outside the gates of the Salvation Army Basic School on Mannings Hill Road.
The Salvation Army property on Mannings Hill Road in St Andrew.
A rat scurries to a garbage skip just outside of the Salvation Army’s Children’s Home.
A rat comes out of hiding at the Salvation Army’s Children’s Home.
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Rats are running riot at the Salvation Army facility on Mannings Hill Road in St Andrew, which is home to a nursery catering for children as young as three months old, a basic school, a children's home, a school for the blind and visually impaired, and an old age home.

Many of the rodents seem to be concentrated in a pumpkin patch located a few metres from the nursery, the basic school and the canteen.

The rodents, known to transmit diseases such as leptospirosis, rat-bite fever, salmonellosis and the viral disease hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, are of serious concern to one mother, whose five-year-old daughter is enrolled at the basic school.

"It is a big concern, because the rubbish bin is actually close to the canteen and we know how rats operate; they run very fast and anything can happen," said the mother who asked not to be named.

"And the kids are not smart enough to know that if they drop food, don't take it up. No matter how you train your child, once they go out on the road and see others doing stuff they are going to follow," added the parent.

The huge rats, which appear to have grown accustomed to humans, run about freely in search of food, with the garbage skip just outside the basic school gates and another in proximity to the children's home dubbed 'The Nest' by persons at the facility, the two main feeding grounds.

HEALTH CONCERNS

"It is a concern because you are going to have the rats around running to and fro, and you have the kids around running to and fro, so it is not good for them because rats are full of germs," said one father, who has a four-year-old boy attending the basic school.

"We have to try our best to get it under control, because kids will always be kids, and the parents are not there, and the teachers are not there at all times, and anything can happen."

The premises is also home to the colonel who heads the Salvation Army's Eastern Division, other Salvation Army personnel and retired officers, some of whom have barricaded their houses in an apparent effort to keep the rodents out.

Captain Carl Thompson of the Salvation Army, who is also based on the compound, said the rat problem is a widespread one which needs to be combated in the surrounding premises, to properly eradicate them.

"The entire area surrounding the compound is rat-infested. So while the Salvation Army does what they can, our neighbours have to contribute as well. We just hope that in the near future this infestation will be remedied," said Thompson.

He added that immediate measures were being implemented to deal with the rat attack.

"We had some rat boxes there before that. After the rats go into them they are no more, but the garbage men took them out by accident. So we are trying to get those replaced," said Thompson.

"Pest control has been called in. They came and assessed the property and gave us recommendations as to what to put in place, so that we can at least eradicate the rat population," added Thompson.

Five reasons why rats are dangerous to humans

SALMONELLA

We generally know salmonella as a type of food poisoning, although it is in fact the name of the group of bacteria that cause it. Salmonellosis is the disease caused by eating food that is raw, undercooked or in many cases too frequently reheated. The three main strains of salmonella bacteria found to be carried by rats and transferred to food are S. enteriditis, S. typhimurion and S. dublin.

LISTERIA

The genus of listeria most commonly related to infection in humans and found to be carried by rodents is L. monocytogenes. Listeria has been found in a large number of rodent population, with rates of infection ranging from 10-75%.

LEPTOSPIRA

Rodent urine and contaminated soil are the most common sources of the bacteria leptospira. The early symptoms of leptospirosis are often flu-like with high fever, chills, severe headache, muscle ache and vomiting.

E. COLI or ESHERISCHIA COLI

The most important strain in humans is E. coli 0157. It is a major source of food-borne illness with symptoms ranging from nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea. Occasionally, infection can lead to more serious complications such as kidney failure and anaemia, with children being in the highest-risk group.

Around 40 per cent of the rat population is infected with E. coli and many reported cases of infection can be related to rodent transfer of the disease.

HANTAVIRUS

Less commonly known than many of the disease mentioned above, hantavirus is no less dangerous. Early symptoms are flu-like and can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome, kidney failure, low blood pressure and low blood oxygen levels, giving the sufferer a blue tinge to their skin tone.

The most common accepted source of hantavirus is from the dust of dry rodent droppings.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com