A new study has revealed that New York City rats carry the fleas that can transmit the plague. The results of this new study were published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.
The study has revealed that ever since the 1920s, the New York City rats have been carrying some flea species that are known to be capable of spreading plague pathogens.
Matthey Frye, lead author of the study and an urban entomologist at the Cornell University’s New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, said in a news release that if these New York City rats carry fleas that are capable of transmitting plague to the people, then the only thing missing from the transmission cycle is the pathogen itself.
It needs to be highlighted that not all fleas are capable of transmitting the plague. The primary vector for the Black Death is the Oriental rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis), which was responsible for the plague in the majority of epidemics.
For the study that has found that New York City rats carry the fleas that can transmit the plague the scientists have captured 133 New York City fleas. After careful examination, the researchers have managed to collect more than 6,500 specimens of fleas and mites from the specimens and found that more than 550 Oriental rat fleas.
Aside from the plague-carrying fleas, they found that many of the rats carried a large number of bacterial and viral diseases that could infect humans.
Although it may seem incredible, there are around 10 cases of the Black Death, or bubonic plague, inside the United States every year. The cases are caused by the infected fleas from squirrels and prairie dogs.
The authors of the study also noted that health officials should monitor city rats and their fleas and that people should implement Integrated Pest Management practices such as removing food and water and preventing access to shelters in and around their homes.
When we evict rats from our homes and workplaces, we need another core IPM practice — careful sanitation. It’s critical to rid buildings of the fleas, lice and mites that are left behind. “It’s not that these parasites can infest our bodies, but they can feed on us while seeking other rats to infest.
Image Source: WNYC