Ways of protecting your house against rats and their health effects

Rats are small to medium-sized rodents with long tails said to have originated in Asia. There are two main types: black rat (ratus ratus) and brown rats (ratus norvigecus). Rats can also be domestic or wild, wild rats are more aggressive and easily bite, while the domestic rat is friendly, rarely bites, infact some are trained to be pets.
Rats are associated with some diseases either contaminating food with their urine and /or stool OR through other animals like fleas on their bodies.

Diseases contracted through food contaminated by rat stool and/or urine include Lassa fever, Leptospirosis, Rat-bite fever and Food poisoning (by Salmonella, Campylobacter).

Diseases contracted through other animals which live on the body of a rat include Plague, Cutaneous Leishmaniasis and Colorado Tick fever.

Finally dander from the body of rats can cause allergy in some people.

In Nigeria today, Lassa fever is endemic, rats are the vectors of the Lassa virus, in the current outbreak; it has claimed over forty lives.

From the above, you can see that rats are the enemies of man and should be kept at bay by the following means;

1. Food Hygiene
Store food in airtight containers within your kitchen and food store, always cover your cooked food as rats can defecate and urinate on food.
Keep kitchen counters/cabinets and also those in food store clean all the time. Clean counters before and after cooking
Use the refrigerator and /or freezer if available to store food.

2. Barrier Exclusion
Seal all cracks and gaps in walls, floors, plumbing pipelines and electrical socket holes to prevent rats from entering the house. This is called barrier exclusion.

3. Environmental Sanitation
Rats thrive and breed in dirty environment, the house should be well lit up and swept thoroughly every day in our country because there is dirt everywhere, on the road, around the house, markets, everywhere. Clean the floor, clean the sinks, remove any collection of garbage to the covered bin.
The immediate environment must also be cleaned daily; a clean house and surrounding discourage existence of rats.

4. Fumigate your home every quarter
Fumigate your homes and the immediate environment every three months if you can afford it as this will kill the rats and also discourage their existence in the house.

5. Use of cats
Some homes use cats to eat up rats, it works but a few rats have been seen to dare cats.

6. Use of rat poison
There are several rat poisons in the market and could be placed in strategic locations, they work, many of them contain anti-coagulants which cause ceaseless internal bleeding. The main drawbacks include: Accidental consumption by children, Stench from dead rats in obscure places; Abnormal proliferation of fairly big flies invited by the decomposing rats and Deliberate use as human poison

7. Use of traps
Rat traps have been in use for centuries but rats are quite intelligent especially the domestic ones. Consequently, traps are not very effective.

8. Avoid bush burning
Lassa fever outbreak is common in Nigeria in the dry season because of bush burning which drives bush rats indoors; bush burning must be discouraged because of this and de-forestation.
A combination of food hygiene, barrier exclusion and environmental sanitation and rat destruction is advised.

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