THE Jamaican Government will have to spend $200 million to urgently deal with a rat infestation in its main city, Kingston.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Sandra Chambers told the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation's (KSAC) Parish Disaster and Public Health Committee meeting yesterday that 57 of the 120 communities in the city which were surveyed in January were found to have heavy rat infestation.
Dr Chambers said the $200 million is needed for bait preparation and sanitation, bait stations and maps, collection of dead rats and compilation of the report, and included work to be done by the Ministry of Health, the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) and the Public Health Authority. Preparation and baiting have already commenced.
Dr Chambers, meanwhile, said public education on the management of food scraps was also necessary. Garbage, she said, would have to be covered to ensure that there was nothing for the rodents to eat. She also called for the strengthening of legislation dealing with littering so that action can be taken against people who continue to dispose of their garbage improperly.
Dr Chambers, in explaining how the level of rat infestation was categorised, said that 50 per cent of evidence of infestation was very heavy in households surveyed; 15 to 49 per cent heavy; 12 to 15 per cent moderate and 12 per cent light.
The medical officer said that for the rodent problem to be resolved a collaborative approach was needed between the Ministry of Local Government, the KSAC, the NSWMA, and selected NGOs .
She urged the various stakeholders attending the meeting to coordinate and cooperate to find the funds for the rat control programme. "We want everybody to come together to find the funds," Dr Chambers said.
According to the medical officer, the rattus norvegious (brown rat) common in Jamaica had a one year life span. One pair of rats could produce 30,000 rats per year, as she stressed the urgent need for the eradication of the rodents.
Health risks from the rodents were rat bite fever, bubonic plague, rat lung worm (that cause eosinophilic meningitis) and leptospirosis.
Councillor Angela Brown Burke, the new mayor of Kingston, described yesterday's meeting as an experiment because of the wide cross section of representatives, which included the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the Kingston Restoration Company, the Downtown Ministers' Fraternal, the Parish Development Committee, the NSWMA, the Ministry of Education, the New Kingston Civic Association and the Public Health Department, along with councillors.
Mayor Brown Burke said she wanted to see how the meeting could be a part of moving the solution agenda, while improving public health in the city. She said that it was an opportunity to collaborate and coordinate to ensure that good practices prevailed.