Changsha : Authorities are on the alert for a possible public health crisis after an estimated two billion rats chomped their way through 22 counties around Dongting Lake in central China's Hunan Province.
Li Junhua, spokesman for the Hunan Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that work teams had been sent to three cities on Dongting Lake – Yueyang, Yiyang and Changde – to help prevent outbreaks of disease.
Li said there was no report so far of disease caused by rats.
The Hunan health department Wednesday ordered local authorities to initiate a communication campaign.
More than 2.25 million rats, weighing about 90 tonnes, have been killed since June 21 in Yiyang, local authorities said.
Cao Zhiping, head of the Yiyang office of plant protection and quarantine, said the dead rodents had been buried deep in the earth after being sterilised with quicklime.
In Lujiao town, Yueyang, dead mice were burnt and buried in high ground so that they could not be carried away by flood waters and contaminate the environment.
The estimated two billion rats invaded 22 counties around Dongting Lake after their homes on islands in the lake were flooded.
The rats burrowed through dikes and spread out into cropland, devouring crops along their route.
Local authorities in Yiyang, Yuanjiang, Junshan and Huarong are rushing to build walls and dig ditches to keep the rats away from flood-control dikes and cropland.
Poison has also been widely used to kill the rats but that has already had side effects. In Binhu village of Lujiao town, about 1,000 cats died after eating rats killed by poison.