Rodent Management Request to Prevent Bubonic Plague



6 APRIL 2016



The alarming discovery of bubonic plague antibodies in a rat carcass that was recovered in Thembisa calls for intensive and well-coordinated rodent management in urban areas. Rats and fleas that live on rats carry the Yersinia pestis micro-organism that causes bubonic plague. If people are bitten by rats and fleas that carry the Yersinia pestis micro-organism, they will be infected by the disease. Bubonic plague aka Black Death may become epidemic if infected carriers (rats and fleas) are not effectively controlled. The dire situation with poor waste management and virtually no rodent management in urban areas result in epidemic rodent populations that may, if left uncontrolled, develop into conditions conducive to bubonic plague outbreak.

Bubonic plague is one of three types of bacterial infection caused by Yersinia pestis. Three to seven days after exposure to the bacteria flu like symptoms develop. This includes feverheadaches, and vomiting. Swollen and painful lymph nodes occur in the area closest to where the bacteria entered the skin. Occasionally the swollen lymph nodes may break open.

Bubonic plague is mainly spread by infected fleas from small animals. It may also result from exposure to the body fluids from a dead plague infected animal. In the bubonic form of plague, the bacteria enter through the skin through a flea bite and travel via the lymphatic vessels to a lymph node, causing it to swell. 

Prevention is through public health measures such as not handling dead animals in areas where plague is common. Without treatment it results in the death of 30% to 90% of those infected. Death if it occurs is typically within ten days. With treatment the risk of death is around 10%. Globally in 2013 there were about 750 documented cases which resulted in 126 deaths. The disease is most common in Africa.

Plague is believed to be the cause of the Black Death that swept through Asia, Europe, and Africa in the 14th century and killed an estimated 50 million people.

Source : WikipediA


South Africans need to take control of rodent management in their own premises with due consideration of the natural environment as well as human health and safety. Registered rodenticides are available in South Africa to effectively control rats.

CropLife South Africa advises citizens to be very careful when applying rodenticides in order to prevent the poisoning of domestic dogs, owls and children. The following safety measures should be implemented when applying rodenticides:

  1. Use only registered rodenticides –
    1. registration is evident in a registration number
    2. starting with capital L
    3. followed by four numeric digits, and
    4. Act No. 36 of 1947 on the label and container of the rodenticide.
  2. Always apply rodenticides in bait stations. Bait stations are available at retail outlets.
  3. A safe place indoors to apply rodenticides out of harm’s way is in the ceiling.
  4. Ensure that children and dogs do not gain access to rodenticides as ingestion of it may be fatal.
  5. Collect dead rats from the fourth day after initial application of rodenticides. Use rubber gloves when collecting carcasses. Seal carcasses in plastic bags and dispose of it in the refuse bins.
  6. Do not allow dogs to eat dead rats even if rodenticides were not used.
  7. Baiting needs to maintained for at least sixteen days to exterminate rat populations.
  8. Do not use aldicarb (Two Step) to kill rodents – it is illegal, ineffective and pose a very serious poisoning risk to children and dogs.
  9. Do not use cement or plaster of Paris mixed with maize meal as bait as it is ineffective. It causes discomfort when rats eat it and they emit alarm signals that negate the baiting process.

Rodenticide are only one tool in rodent management. Maintaining sanitation of premises is essential:

  1. Keep your environment clean.
  2. Do not allow rubble and refuse to collect on the premises.
  3. Do not leave pet food unattended outside. Feed pets at particular times and offer just enough food to satisfy their needs.
  4. If garden birds are treated with bird seed and other food, offer small amounts in the morning to avoid any food being left over.
  5. Seal rat burrows with heavy soils or cement if they burrow under buildings.

Secondary Poisoning Caution

Certain rodenticides are less prone to causing secondary poisoning to owls. Send an sms to 082-446-8946 requesting information on such products or for any other queries about rodent management. It is very important to protect urban owls against primary and secondary poisoning hence a call for selective use of rodenticides.

See also : Urban Raptor Project  Rat Poison Killing Owls   Rat Poison Kills Owls   Owl Rescue Centre



Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, CropLife South Africa at 082-446-8946.


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