There was this shop back in Medical school, where we used to sit and have snacks. The meat-pie was especially tasty.
One day, I was there with a friend and was shocked when he
asked the sales lady: “Give us some of that your delicious rat-pie, please.”
RAT PIE!? I was alarmed. So, this is what we’d been eating all this time…?
My friend sharply announced that he was only kidding, but in my head, the damage had already been done! Looking back, and come to think of it, those pies really did have a rather exotic taste…
I didn’t know what to believe anymore, but in any case, I was thankful that I hadn’t caught some evil disease this way.
Years on, I still chill at that shop occasionally, after a hectic day-but I’ve since stopped eating that pie!
Rats And Disease
In some parts of the world, especially the tropics and more especially in their slums, there is a tendency to generally not mind each time they see a rat or two in the living room or in the kitchen. Folks here literally live with rats. And be sure: where there are rats, there’s disease. So what should you expect when your roommate is a rat?
In 14th Century Europe, and several other times as well, there was an outbreak of disease so severe that according to some accounts, it wiped out more than half their population! Streets were littered with corpses and everyone was afraid to go outside. This outbreak was given befitting names: The Black Death; La Pestilencia; The Black Plague… It has been reported as the worst catastrophe in recorded history. London wasn’t synonymous with fashion and lifestyle then-instead, what it brought to mind was disease and death.
This plague was observed to have spread from animals to humans through the agency of fleas from dying rats. Hygiene wasn’t their strong suit in those days, and rats enjoyed almost as much free space as people in their homes then. Many such plagues have come and gone through the ages, completely erasing entire villages and leaving in their wake, death and palpable sorrow…
Today, the Bubonic Plague still exists but has been largely stemmed through better hygiene and pest control among other public health measures. It is still troublesome though, and in fact, in Arizona and New Mexico, fleas and people carrying this infection have been reported. This was just a few days ago!
Diseases Transmitted By Rodents
Just a few of the diseases carried about and directly transmitted by rodents are: Rat bite fever; Bubonic plague; Leptospirosis; Lassa fever; Salmonellosis; and Tularaemia.
A Little Bit On Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis sounds like a ballet dance move, but it is really nothing as pretty as that! It is a disease caused by the bacteria of the Leptospira species. This germ is carried by rats and related rodents, and passed out in their urine.
Among other hideouts, rats are found in warehouses and storage rooms where they like to scamper around and urinate on canned products and other stuff. The urine dries up quickly, leaving millions of Leptospira on the cans. These products are frequently moved directly to vending machines and shops without any pre-cleaning.
We often like to just buy a can of soda from the machine and pop the lid. Then we guzzle down the rich rat urine/Leptospira/Cola combo right from the top of the can. THESE CANS HAVE NOT BEEN WASHED!
*Leptospirosis bacteria can also be found abundantly in soil, water or food contaminated with the urine of infected animals.
Symptoms of Leptospirosis include: headaches, muscle aches, neck pain, and bleeding problems. Features of liver, kidney and heart damage may follow, all leading to death if not promptly detected and treated.
Lassa fever is another rodent-borne disease, but unlike Leptospirosis which is a bacterial illness, Lassa is viral and indeed more troublesome. It too is got by contact with food or any surface contaminated by infected urine or faeces. Also, human-to-human spread is possible through contact with their infected blood, urine, faeces or other body fluids.
Symptoms of Lassa fever manifest as sudden onset of fever usually quickly followed by weakness all over the body. Shortly thereafter, headaches, sore throat, muscle pain, cough and diarrhoea may occur. The grizzliest event in this infection is bleeding. Bleeding from the nose, eyes and other parts of the body.
So Lassa fever is similar to the Ebola Virus Disease because they are both members of the family of Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers, VHF. These diseases are frequently fatal.
Some Very Important Steps:
Hygiene! Personal hygiene, environmental hygiene. Sealed and regularly emptied trash cans.
Low-cut grasses. If you live near a bush, do find a way to put a distance or barrier between it and your home. This is not quite the time to want to live close to nature…
Wash all canned or tinned products before opening. There are enough nutrients inside the products already!
No swimming or wading in just any pool of water: it may be contaminated with animal urine-and maybe a few tiny but unfriendly creatures…
Do wear protective clothing when handling animals, water or soil.
Avoid undue physical contact with sick individuals and pets until they’ve been seen by their doctors.
Read! Get info about these trending diseases online. Check out www.cdc.gov
As much as possible, store all foods in containers with firm lids.
Wash all utensils before use-dry or not.
Of course, stay away from rat meat or other exotic meats for now-no matter how “well prepared” or appealing they look.
Report any strange symptoms you notice in any person or any animal to health authorities promptly.
Do You Have Any of These Symptoms?
Go straight to your neighbourhood clinic. Better to discover that you had worms, or malaria after all, than to wish you’d gone earlier, now that it’s Lassa!
Do take care, and have a clean week!