A Smoking Rat, a Ride on the ‘Cockroach Express’ and other News

As part of my work I keep track on any pest related news. Most of the time, I get a lot of articles on disease outbreaks and epidemics caused by pests. Delayed monsoons and excessive rains have somewhat increased pest issues in India this year.

Recently, these have been quite hot topics:

  • Japanese Encephalitis  in Uttar Pradesh
  • Dengue in Delhi
  • Malaria in Chennai

While these are rather scary reports, once in a while I get the odd report that forces a smile on my lips or in contrast contains an especially appalling description out of a nightmare. In the last week I found three incidents I thought worthwhile to share with you.

30 hours aboard the ‘Cockroach Express’”  was the headlines of an interesting (ok, rather scary) article about travelling on the Geetanjali Express from Howrah to Mumbai. Imagine finding one cockroach in your bed. Disturbing? Now imagine hundreds of cockroaches in your bed, climbing in your luggage and even worse, into your shirts and pants. To add to the scare, it is a 30 hour train ride. On top of all that, some passengers found cockroaches in their food and contracted a food poisoning. I think this is a prime example for the necessity of proper pest control measures.

A rather bizarre article was about a pet rat that caused a fire. Well, nothing funny about the fire, but as we know, rodents are known to chew on insulation and electric wiring, to keep their teeth sharp and intact, and thus can cause short circuits and fires.

Well, the ‘pet rat incident’  is somewhat different. The rat was allowed to roam around freely in the home, and had built a nest in its cage, hoarding different rubbish materials, including empty beer cans and paper. One day the rat collected a smoldering cigarette butt and carried it in its nest. Subsequently the nest caught fire and burned the cage. Luckily the fire alarm went off and fire fighters managed to prevent further damage. This is the first time I hear of a ‘nicotine addicted’ rat as the cause for a fire. Guess smoking has more ways to kill you than one might expect.

An interesting read was an article about the so-called “Rat Man”, Lab technician Pravin Ghuge at Parel’s Haffkine Institute in Mumbai. He is the only person who stands between the Plague and the city of Mumbai. His job is to analyze randomly collected rat samples (around 200 rats dissected per day) for the plague. The sad part of this is, that his unit is understaffed and to properly protect Mumbai from the Plague, more lab technicians like him would be required to analyze more rodents on a daily basis. Luckily, plague outbreaks have become very rare everywhere across the globe. So far no infected rats have been found in Mumbai. Fingers crossed, for the future.

If you come across other interesting pest news, please do share them with us.