NYC Rats Are Even More Disgusting Than You Imagined

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In this June 15, 2010 file photo, a rat moves along the ground near the subway tracks at Union Square in New York.
Photo: Frank Franklin II/Corbis

Rats in New York are mutant giants programmed to not feel fear and to steal your food and to run across your sandaled feet in the summer just to remind you who’s boss. Now we have a whole new reason for finding rats gross and horrible: Their mangy bodies carry mites, lice, bacteria, diseases, viruses, and some types of fleas that can transmit the freakin’ plague. Ew.

A team of scientists recently trapped 133 rats in five different locations in Manhattan in order to study the parasites they carried, and found 6,500 fleas, lice, and mites living on them. Not only that, but they found a bunch of rat fleas that are known to transmit horrifying infections like the bubonic plague. Writes Wired:

A calculation called the Flea Index is used to calculate risk to humans of plague. It’s basically the average number of fleas on a rat. If the Flea Index is below 1 (1 flea/rat), then there is minimal risk of a disease establishing itself in a population. In 1925, the calculated Flea Index for New York was 0.22. In the newly published study, the flea index was 4.1.

There is some good news, though. None of the rat fleas studied carried plague bacteria, so we’re at least one step away from a rat-borne plague wiping out New York. Besides, the apocalyptic climate conditions will probably take us out first.

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NYC Rats Even More Disgusting Than You Imagined