The government has launched a campaign to eradicate rats across the territory in a bid to prevent the spread of the rat hepatitis E virus (HEV), which has already resulted in the death of an elderly man.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung announced the three-month campaign, which started today, during an event on Sunday, vowing that no a single rat will be spared, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Cheung asked everyone in the community to join the campaign by keeping their homes clean and maintaining environmental hygiene.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) will take stringent enforcement actions to achieve the purpose of the campaign, such as by aggressively cleaning all sources of rat infestation, he said.
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) under the Department of Health said last week three elderly men were found to have contracted the rat HEV and one of them had died.
The cases came after a local man was infected with the virus in September last year, the world’s first case, raising concerns that the virus might have spread in Hong Kong.
Undersecretary for Food and Health Chui Tak-yi told media the FEHD will step up inspections and law enforcement during the three-month campaign.
Dr. Ho Pak-leung, president of the Carol Yu Centre for Infection at the University of Hong Kong, said he is worried that the recent cases of local residents contracting rat-associated hepatitis E may only be the “tip of the iceberg”.
The microbiologist told a radio program on Sunday that there could be more unreported cases in the community because of the difficulty of testing for the disease.
Ho urged the government to make the tests for rat HEV available in all hospitals so that infected patients can be identified as soon as possible.
Currently, only the Department of Health and Queen Mary Hospital are able to perform such tests in the city, and the two have only tested several dozens of suspected cases since the first human case was confirmed last year, Ho said.
In response, Chui said authorities will consider expanding the rat HEV tests to all hospitals in the city.
Meanwhile, a rat-catching expert from Guangzhou, who was invited to Hong Kong by an alliance of several District Council members to combat rat infestation, was able to catch rats in Kowloon City Market, Po On Road Market and Hung Hom Market on Saturday.
He used barbecued pork and chicken for baits.
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