Rats have taken over two Occupy Wall Street encampment areas in Washington, D.C.’s McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza. Now health officials are worried and are comparing camp conditions to refugee camps, according to the Washington Post.
Since Occupiers are reportedly attracting the rodent population with their outdoor kitchens and eating, Mayor Vincent Gray has ordered a full blown inspection of the grounds in question on Thursday and occupiers have temporarily closed down their kitchens for a thorough cleaning in preparation of the visit. Department of Health Director Mohammad Akhter also visited both sites and concluded that the camps may need to be closed and is advising the federal government about his concerns.
The troublesome rap infestation in D.C. started late last year, with the Occupy camp receiving its first sanitation notice in November. Still, some argue that the rats were already comfortable residents at the sites and the Occupiers only brought the problem to the surface. According to Victor Harris, a grassroots political activist who has been a D.C. resident for more than 35 years:
D.C.’s rat infestation is nothing new and the rodent control efforts are just feable. I’ve seen some as big as cats! These types of rodents have plagued the city for decades. I am now only too glad that the media is now shedding some light on a situation that has been out of control.
Rats in the capital city have been a nuisance dating back to the days of Abe Lincoln, when his son Tad got lost in the subbasement of the U.S. Capitol and was reportedly surrounded by rats.
The CDC reports that rats are carriers of as many as 35 diseases that can spread directly to humans by handling them directly or coming into contact with their feces, urine, saliva or bites. In 1999, the rodent population was so high that D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams convened a citywide Rat Summit, the first of its kind, that focused on how to tame the epidemic. Unfortunately, extermination strategies have been unsuccessful throughout the years largely due to the fact that rats have become resistant to poisons.
Al Green, an entomologist and the Pied Piper of Pennsylvania Avenue, oversees the pest abatement of the D.C. federal buildings and is not so optimistic about the rat infestation in his town:
They’ll [rats] always be with us. Our cities are built over a vast nether world of tunnels and sewers and building foundations that provide home to thousands or even millions of them, he told Yahoo News.
In the meantime, the National Park Service has official jurisdiction over the two camps and will make the final decision about whether to evict protesters after Thursday’s findings.
Do you think the camps should be closed and the protestors evicted in order to avoid a possible health crisis?