Minj ne closet. Rats on the street. Thousands upon thousands of mice in the barn, accumulating so much, it takes six hours to clean up their debris.
These are scenes from Queensland and New South Wales, Australia, where a check out of control mousey the infection is making life miserable for farmers, food sellers and other citizens of the eastern states of Australia. A farmer interviewed by The Guardian described rodent rage as “an absolute plague,” worse than anything the natives have seen in decades.
Some farmers have already lost their wheat crops to rabid rats, according to local media reports, while hotels have had to close because they cannot keep tomatoes out of their rooms. Staff at a grocery store in a small town in northwestern Sydney reported catching up to 600 mice a night. So far, at least three people have visited the hospital with rodent bites, The Guardian reported.
Steve Henry, a researcher at CSIRO (Australian National Science Agency) told The Guardian that the infection was likely the result of an extremely large grain harvest, which attracted more hungry mice to area farms earlier in the season than usually.
“They start breeding earlier and because there is a lot of food and shelter in the system, they continue to breed from early spring to autumn,” Henry said.
Locals have responded by setting extra traps, while a farmer in nearby Queensland was only given permission to use a drone for falls poisonous bait in mice from above.
Despite these efforts, Alan Brown, a farmer from the town of Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, said the plague likely had just started, given the rapid rate of multiplication in mice; a single breeding couple can produce a new litter every 20 days or so, giving birth to more than 500 offspring in a season, according to Reuters.
“A mature female can reproduce every three weeks, they can pull them out,” Brown said. “And this is what is happening is building a massive plague.”
In addition to being a business concern and threat, mouse wounds can also be vectors of disease, according to the 1998 Queensland government report on rats in Queensland.
“Probably the most common [pathogens] are Salmonella bacteria that can be spread by a variety of animal species (including humans), “the report said.” Bacteria are usually transmitted to humans through food contaminated with infected urine or feces and can cause acute gastroenteritis.
Originally published in Live Science.
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