In what may be the biggest news about pests since literally the Middle Ages, scientists are beginning to think that the rat, long blamed for the Black Death that killed off millions of Europeans, was not responsible for spreading the disease. Actually, scientists have long known that the rat was not directly responsible for spreading the Bubonic Plague. The rats were, instead, suspected to be hosts for the fleas that spread the Plague, and when rats came near homes, people, or pets they could transmit the fleas, who would then bite people and spread the devastating disease.
While scientists still agree that fleas were the hosts responsible for spreading the Plague directly to humans, instead of arriving on the back of threatening, scary-looking rats, they now think these fleas arrived on the backs of cute and cuddly gerbils. That is right; the most deadly contagious disease to impact humankind in all of known history was probably spread by an animal many of us have kept as a pet.
Nils Christian Stenseth, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Oslo began to question the idea of rats as the hosts for the Plague by observing the number of rats still in Europe and contrasting it with the fact that the Plague is no longer found in European cities. The Plague is, however, still found in Asia, where it happens to be carried by gerbils. The theory is that the gerbils brought the Plague to Europe from Asia. Climate records suggest that during periods of harsh climates, there would have been mass die-offs in the gerbils’ population, prompting their parasites, including the Plague-carrying fleas, to seek other hosts, including animals and humans traveling through Asia and eventually into Europe. To read more on Gerbils Likely Pushed Plague To Europe in Middle Ages Click Here
So, should you ditch your child’s pet gerbil, just to be safe? No. Pet store gerbils are far removed, both in time and place, from their Asian ancestors and do not carry the Plague.
And, does that mean you should not worry if you see a rat in your home? Absolutely not. First, rats were definitely the carriers for the Plague outbreak in America in the start of the 20th century. Second, rats carry a wide variety of diseases that go far beyond the Plague.
Whether your pest problem is rodents or the fleas they carry, Viking Pest Control has the solution to your pest problems.