Rats Are Now Making it There: Transmitting Plague in the City that Never Sleeps

A new study reports that rats seemed to invade New York City , overflowing with fleas and other parasites that can transmit various of diseases including a plague.

On over 130 rats from around the city , researchers analyzed 6,500 specimens of five common species of fleas , lice and mites . The samples included Oriental rat fleas , this flea is known to carry and transmit bubonic plague , also called the Black Death which could kill as many as two thirds of infected humans if not treated. The disease is known in the 14th century to have killed 25 million people in Europe.

Although , it was also noted that the researchers have identified the flea that could transmit the plague yet there is no evidence of the bacteria that causes the plague in  the flea or the rats that were examined.

“If these rats carry fleas that could transmit the plague to people, then the pathogen itself is the only piece missing from the transmission cycle,” said Matthew Frye , a study author and an urban entomologist at Cornell University in Ithaca , N.Y.,

In the United States, there are cases of people being infected since the plague could also be found among ground squirrels, prairie dogs and the fleas that they carry. There are about 10 people who are likely infected each year, according to researchers. Yet the plague is even more common in some other parts of the world .

The researchers though had actually found the Oriental rat fleas in New York carry some species of Bartonella bacteria that is known to cause a variety of health problems . It may even become severe , according to Cadhla Firth, a study co-author and a research scientist at Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity in New York City .

The research team advises that there should be a close monitoring by the public health officials on the city rats and fleas they carry and encourage everyone to do there part in controlling the rat populations.

“Removing food and water and preventing access to shelter are key to knocking back rodent infestations,” he said. Keeping the surroundings clean is a good way to control it.



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