Pest controllers are working round the clock to tackle infestations of rats in people’s homes, as a consequence of the devastating floods.
Tens of thousands of rats have been forced from their nests after the recent heavy rainfall, with many taking sanctuary in garden sheds and attics.
Families with small children have been warned to be on their guard, as youngsters are particularly vulnerable to potentially-fatal Weils Disease, which spreads when rodents urinate on something which is then ingested by humans.
Trevor Hayden, who runs nationwide company ‘Complete Pest Control’, said his team have been receiving between 50 and 60 calls a day from rat-infested householders since the start of the month — double the number he usually receives at this time of year.
He said the combination of unseasonally mild weather up to recently, plus heavy rain, has significantly increased the numbers of rodent-infested households, particularly in areas that were worst hit by the floods.
And he warned householders could face rat problems up to spring, as rodents increasingly try to seek refuge from the colder weather in warm buildings.
He said: “It’s probably as bad as I’ve known it for rat infestations at the moment, with most of our calls coming from Cork and western counties that were ravaged by the floods.
“The problem really started with the mild weather we had in December and the start of the year. Usually the temperatures would have been a lot colder, which would have killed off a lot of rats.
“Then, with the floods, the rats lost their natural habitat and sought shelter inside. Now, with the cold snap, more rats are going to be looking to get into people’s homes, with attics the most likely areas.”
Although exterminators have mostly had to tackle homes with one or two rodents, Mr Hayden warned rats can quickly multiply in numbers.
He said: “The worst case is when a pregnant female gets into a building, because it only takes a few weeks before one rat can quickly becomes 10. So it’s important people check their attics and lesser-used rooms, as failure to immediately tackle them could quickly lead to a big increase in their numbers.
“The main threats from rats are Weils Disease and bacteria they spread from their urine. The problem with Weils Disease is that the symptoms are very similar to flu, so people may not realise they have it or may be reluctant to visit the doctor.”
Mr Hayden, who works with the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU), has also warned that the number of so-called ‘super rats’ could surge, because the rodents have grown immune to conventional poison.
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