Horror stories about giant rats found in homes and riverbeds have plagued the media in recent months. However, rats have been a problem for generations – anywhere that has water and a constant food source will attract rodents which can spread disease and nibble through the fabric of buildings.
Nick Collinson, managing director of Essex and Suffolk Pest Solutions, which provides rat control in Suffolk in Essex, said: “There is not really a giant rat problem in Ipswich – you’ll always find the biggest rat someone has ever seen – but we have had some horrendous cases.
“We once had a rat that was poisoned in the sewerage system and came out through a toilet. We have found rats in bedrooms, in kitchens and a rat who chewed through wiring at the back of a dishwasher in a pub.”
On average, around a fifth of calls to Essex and Suffolk Pest Solutions are for rat control, and this figure rises to about 30 per cent of callouts in winter. This article looks at which homes and business are most affected and how to tackle a rat problem.
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Why Rats Invade Homes and Businesses
Rats invade properties when there is a readily available food source, so kitchen waste is a major contributor. Restaurants and food industries, particularly those situated in older buildings, are a prime target for rats, although the problem can affect homes and businesses across the board.
“Rats need daily water, food and harbourage,” said Mr Collinson. “They often get through the bottom of bins, through the bung hole that lets waste water out. They use bin waste, sometimes for months, until the infestation is noticed”.
Rats live almost anywhere: on river banks, under buildings, and can burrow through drain faults in the sewerage system. From there, they can get into a property from underground and live in the fabric of a building, in walls, under flooring and behind built in units. They are even known to make their way through from one end of a terrace block to another.
Their gestation period is 21 days and a rat can get pregnant while suckling their young; as they can breed seven to eight young at any one time, as you can imagine, the problem can escalate very quickly.
One of the ways to stop this is to be more careful about rubbish disposal and ensure that bags of rubbish are not left out on the street, and bins are shut securely.
Why Rats are a Problem
Here are some of the risks that rats pose to humans:
Fire Risk – Rats will munch their way through almost anything, including through walls, beams and – worse still – wiring, which poses a fire risk.
Hygiene Risk – Rats carry disease, and some of these illness can prove fatal to humans:
- E. Coli – This is a bacteria that can contaminate food like meat and vegetables. It causes symptoms like stomach cramps, sickness and diarrhoea, and in more serious cases it can damage the kidneys.
- Salmonella – This bacterium can be found in uncooked meat and poultry and it can also be passed through the droppings of infected rats. Symptoms include chills, fever, nausea, diarrhoea, headaches and stomach cramps. It can sometimes take months to recover and in rare cases it can be deadly.
- Hantavirus – This is spread from the dust of dried urine from rats and other animals, as well as through saliva and faeces in infected animals. It is often difficult to diagnose as the symptoms are very similar to flu, and include fever and muscle aches. Some strains of the disease can prove fatal.
- Weil’s Disease – This is a bacterial infection from rat urine, and the urine from other animals, and is most commonly spread via infected water. The disease has two stages and symptoms in the second stage can be similar to meningitis; in extreme cases it can cause organ failure.
What to Do About a Rat Problem
It’s difficult to tackle a rat problem yourself as they breed so quickly. At Essex and Suffolk Pest Solutions we provide free surveys of residential or business premises and offer service contracts which include constant monitoring of sites at regular service visits. Our pest control technicians carry out a full inspection at each visit looking for signs of problems. We offer free surveys of residential or business premises.
Our pest control technicians will advise on housekeeping, proofing and repairs to buildings. This is especially important before the cold weather sets in and colonies of rats are drawn to the building. Our ultimate aim is to eliminate the colony using baits and traps.
We endeavour to get to the root of the problem, including providing drain surveys in which a camera probe is used to find faults or openings in the drain where the rats are coming through.
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