Thai Health Ministry Battles Rats

(AP) Health officials in Thailand have launched a national campaign against rats _ starting with their own offices.

In the past two days, nearly 50 rats were caught inside the Health Ministry compound in Bangkok, prompting Friday's announcement of a national anti-rodent campaign.

The infestation of the ministry responsible for promoting health and hygiene shows just how pervasive Thailand's rat problem has become, Health Minister Chaiya Sasomsup said in a statement.

"Rats are commonly found wherever there is food, debris and garbage _ not just at the Health Ministry," Chaiya said.

The ministry has instructed more than 10,000 health offices, including hospitals and public clinics, to follow its lead and start eradicating rats by setting out traps and practicing better hygiene.

"The animals have become a nuisance. They bite wires, cables, documents and destroy office equipment," said Thawat Suntrajarn, of the health ministry's Disease Control Department. "Worst of all, they are carriers of infectious diseases."

The ministry hopes to reduce the number of rats before Thailand's rainy season, which typically starts in May, when standing water can become contaminated with the bacterial diseases rats can carry.

At the Health Ministry itself, civil servants have been instructed to stop throwing garbage into the nearby sewers and to keep any leftover food in closed containers, said ministry official Pairat Varachit.

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