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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
January 2, 2013

Evaluation of a Neighborhood Rat-Management Program—New York City, December 2007- August 2009

JAMA. 2013;309(1):24-26. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.13791

MMWR. 2012;37:733-736.

The Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) is a pervasive urban rodent that can carry a variety of pathogens transmissible to humans, bring stress to residents of infested neighborhoods, damage property, and cause financial loss.1-4 Several areas of New York City have experienced persistent rat infestation despite a longstanding rat control program that employed property-level inspection and control measures triggered by individual citizen complaints, a common approach in urban areas.3 Recognizing the need to address conditions conducive to rat infestation at the community level, in 2007 the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene launched a proactive “rat indexing” (active surveillance) program, using rapid inspections of properties in several Bronx neighborhoods with persistent rat infestation.5 The program included repeated, neighborhood-wide inspections; education and enforcement actions to promote rat control measures by property owners; and community outreach. Signs of rat infestation were noted and recorded electronically by inspectors, and records were analyzed to evaluate program effectiveness. After three rounds of indexing over a 21-month period, the percentage of properties with active rat signs (ARS) had declined 54%, and the percentage with severe rat infestation had declined 58%. The indexing approach to rat control subsequently was expanded to other parts of the city. Indexing can be an effective control strategy in urban neighborhoods with persistent rat infestation.