Taipei sets up over 1,000 rat traps in 80 locations due to rabies scare

TAIPEI, TAIWAN - Over 1,000 rat traps will be set up citywide after a house shrew, a type of rodent, tested positive for rabies, Taipei's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reported yesterday.

DEP Commissioner Wu Sheng-chung (吳盛忠) said the city is aiming to enhance public hygiene in 80 locations, including traditional vegetable markets, night markets and commercial zones. He added that the city government will also clean up sanitary sewers and drains to prevent house shrews gathering underground.

Along with the 1,000 rat traps at these locations will be a total 6,000 packs of raticide, Wu said, noting that the department will buy an additional 300,000 packs of raticide this week to be as thorough as possible.

To those looking to catch rats, the commissioner suggested using sticky pads rather than poison, as dead rats can be difficult to discover and as their carcasses can becoming breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria and give off pungent odours.

According to the city government, those living in buildings are unlikely to encounter house shrews as they are nocturnal and tend to crawl on the ground rather than climbing up walls as the common rat does.

The DEP said the house shrew's diet consist mainly of earthworms, insects and kitchen waste that contains meat, noting that the department therefore suggests people keep their surroundings clean and store kitchen waste with care.

Stray animals in Taipei taken in for rabies examinations have all tested negative for the virus, said the city's Animal Protection Office (APO). Increased patrols will be scheduled for mountainous areas in to vaccinate strays against the disease.

The APO says that in the meantime it plans to stock up on rabies vaccinations, already having placed an order for 50,000 more, which are set to arrive toward the end of the month.

The office said it has established a temporary emergency animal shelter in the city to quarantine and house stray animals.