Pest control experts are criticising the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) for lacking comprehensive references in its rodent infestation rate, which hit a seven-year high last year.
This comes amid the recent reemergence of Hantaan fever, a disease transmittable to humans from infected mice, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The FEHD is under fire for lacking pest control measures.
Its 2016 rodent infestation rate was 4 percent, one percentage point higher than that of 2015. The figures for individual districts such as Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok were even more alarming, rising from 3.5 percent and 2.9 percent in 2015 to 8.9 percent and 8.4 percent in 2016, respectively.
A higher rodent infestation rate means there are more rats spotted in an area.
Sham Shui Po district councilor Kong Kwai-sang told HKEJ that the number of rodents has increased drastically and they can be found not only on the streets but also in the upper levels of buildings.
Lei Cheng Uk Estate is one of the more seriously affected estates and many residents have found rats in the back stairs or even in their own units. Residents are tackling the situation using cages or rat poison.
The Sham Shui Po District Council Environment and Hygiene Committee held a meeting on Thursday and asked the FEHD to increase patrols, step up prosecution on littering and enforce hygiene in restaurants.
Wong Lap-yan, chief health inspector of the Sham Shui Po area, said in a reply to district councilors that a task force has been set up to increase patrols.
In addition to increasing the number of mouse traps and cages, the FEHD said it is trying to improve the overall hygiene in the area by boosting the frequency of street and alley cleaning from once a week to thrice a week.
Yuen Long, which has a rodent infestation rate of just 2.7 percent, is where the first case of Hantaan fever was reported in 2011. A 22-year-old man was recently confirmed to have contracted the disease.
At present, the FEHD index is compiled from calculating how many rat baits have been bitten in a certain district.
Leung Kwong-yuen, chairperson of the Pest Control Personnel Association of Hong Kong, said there is a loophole in the FEHD index as baits could not be put at many private premises. Also, a large number of rats may have sufficient food supply from alleys before they would turn to the baits.
However, Leung said the index has a certain referential value, adding that the FEHD could improve the accuracy of the index by putting into account complaints and visual inspections.
The FEHD said there are no international standards of rodent indices and the department has put in place the most suitable system for Hong Kong.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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