After the deluge Rats have swarmed the streets New York,National Geographic and Cleveland Leader report.
Beyond the damage that Hurricane Sandy caused with high winds and torrential rains is another potentially hazardous situation. As the floodwaters rise in New York, rats scurrying to escape could spread disease as they infest new areas.
The storm surge and high tides caused a 13-foot wall of water to spill into New York City, causing severe flooding to subways and road tunnels in the city and torrents of water to pour into the streets. The rising water will thus force rats out of the underground homes and into contact with humans.
Rats are survivors and will escape the floods and move towards higher ground, like apartments and other buildings that are inhabited by humans. Rats are both good swimmer and climbers. New infestations of rats could result in a rise in infectious diseases carried by urban rats, including leptospirosis, hantavirus, typhus, salmonella, and even the plague.
“One of things we know can exacerbate disease is massive dispersal. Rats are highly social individuals and live in a fairly stable social structure. If this storm disturbs that, rats could start infesting areas they never did before.”
Rats do not need to bite a human in order to transmit diseases. Rodent feces and urine themselves can spread conditions such as hantavirus.
Fortunately, Ostfeld says that the large volume of water that Sandy brought should dilute the pathogens, which would reduce the risk to the public.
New York City‘s rats have arrived. In the wake ofsuperstorm Sandy, residents of the city are soon likely to see them by the thousands, since the rodents have been driven from flooded subway tunnels.
When weather is drier, the rats seem to love living under the soil, and can dig deeper than water can seep. They could even have been safe in their burrows as the storm swept the city Monday. But many likely were out on the hunt for food.
“They’re in the subway, in spite of the subway,” said exterminator Benett Pearlman of New York-based Positive Pest Management Corp. The underground systems are the first things rats reach when breaking through the soil in search of sustenance. This perpetual hunger likely killed many as floodwaters washed back through their tunnels into their nests, probably killing the sick, the elderly, and new mothers with their young.
The many thousands that made it out alive—most using the same stairways people use, Pearlman said—were trapped aboveground on Tuesday, hunkering down behind trash bins and under cars until nightfall.
Sandy has brought a feast to their feet. New sources of food are washing out of the waterways and along flooded streets, including loads of rotting trash, other rats, pigeons, and fish. The well-fed rats will burrow beneath buildings under cover of night to establish new homes, sliding into holes as small as a half inch (1.3 centimeters)—the width of their skulls—even though their bodies can measure up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) long.