Food and health tsar promises to dig deep in war on rats

Local | Jane Cheung 24 May 2019

Additional funding will be provided for the war on rats beside setting aside HK$91 million, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said yesterday.

She said that resources are not a problem and the government would allocate more for the purpose if necessary.

Her pledge came while inspecting the Sham Shui Po district clean-up operation following last week's announcement that three elderly men were being treated for rat hepatitis E virus infection, including a 74-year-old man who subsequently died.

The incident sparked public concern over rodent infestation in the SAR and prompted the government to begin a city-wide clean-up operation with various government bureau and departments getting together to deal with the problem.

Chan said it is of dire importance to put an end to rat infestation at its source by eliminating their food and removing their homes. Along with Chan, staff members of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, the Housing Department, the Highways Department and the Home Affairs Department, together with the members of the Sham Shui Po District Council, also took part in the operation.

Chan said the clean-up had three purposes: stepping up cleanliness, eliminating rats at source and enhancing sanitation of refuse rooms.

"The Highways Department have also been inspecting back lanes and blocking holes that we suspect to be homes of rodents," she said.

She said the government would enforce strict laws against restaurants that place their rubbish in back lanes.

"We don't want bags of rubbish to accumulate in back lanes, as they provide a desirable environment for rodent infestation," Chan said. "We will charge the diners that don't place their trash properly."

Chan said she wants to educate the public about maintaining personal, environmental and food hygiene for rodent control.

She said The University of Hong Kong medical team is still working to track the mode of transmission of the three patients and called on citizens to be more alert. "Rat hepatitis E can be completely cured but citizens should keep good hygiene, such as washing their hands frequently and cover up unattended food," she said.

Lee Ming-wai, pest control officer of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said the government mainly uses sweet potatoes as bait for rodents to calculate rodent infestation.

"The scent of sweet potatoes can attract rats and we can easily observe the traces of rodent bites on the sweet potatoes," he said, adding that other baits, including meat, are not as suitable as sweet potatoes.

"For rat cages, we use other bait in addition to sweet potatoes to attract them. Our front line officers would decide on the type of bait depending on the situation," he said.

Lee said the rodent control measures in the SAR are in line with the mainstream tactics adopted by other countries.

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