Urban Rats Carry New Species Of Virus Related To Hepatitis C

Recent reports highlight an ordinary issue few care to think about: homegrown rats. According to ABC News, the number of rodents has begun to swell in cities throughout the nation, spurring federal disease specialists to seek a solution to this problem. Meanwhile, a recent study conducted by Columbia University scientists finds an atrocious number (and type) of viruses and bacteria in Manhattan’s rats. “This is a recipe for a public health nightmare,” Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, told The New York Times.

The dominating rat species in urban centers throughout the country is Rattus norvegicus, often called the Norway rat, though also referred to as the brown, wharf, gray, sewer, barn, or house rat. Rats are first and foremost commensal animals who live alongside us, eating our food and leaving their droppings and urine markings for us to see. In Chicago, according to ABC, rat sightings increased from 22,431 in July 2000 to 33,134 in July 2014, while in Boston, complaints are up by 40 percent this year. Rat inspections increased throughout New York City in recent years, increasing by 18 percent last year.

While it's not entirely clear the rats can pass these new viruses, including Hep C, onto humans, generally speaking, it doesn't bode well. “Our findings indicate that urban rats are reservoirs for a vast diversity of microbes that may affect human health and indicate a need for increased surveillance and awareness of the disease risks associated with urban rodent infestation,” noted the authors in their conclusion.

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