London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Finsbury 1960

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Finsbury Borough]

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For a number of years alternate baiting with Zinc phosphide and
Arsenious Oxide was carried out twice yearly at all available manholes,
but a check made in 1956/57 showed that no substantial reduction was
being made in the rat population, for breeding was exceeding those
killed, A trial period with three treatments a year followed, but
with little effect, for it became apparent that the rats had either
become immune to or formed a poison prejudice. Certain parts of the
local sewer system were difficult to bait as some extreme points were
without manholes, and formed excellent living quarters for rats.
However the Borough Engineer arranged for access points to be made in
these 'â– stunt* ends, and so far as completed, have been most useful
during sewer treatments. All manholes and side entrances to the
sewers have been fitted with baiting trays, some being of a pattern
which allows them to be lifted from their fixing, placed aside whilst
sewermen are working nearby and replaced at the end of the day without
the bait being disturbed.
In 1958 it was decided to discontinue the triple treatment of
sewers as mentioned, and to poison all possible access points four
times during the year with one additional test baiting. For the
poison it was recommended that Sodium Fluoroacetate at 0.25% in
either damped sausage rusk or course pinhead oatmeal be used. The
results have been good and there are signs of a definite decrease in
the number of rats in the sewers, and in some instances a clearance
has been effected. Much controversy has taken place as to the dangers
of using Sodium Fluoroacetate(or "1080" as it is known), but providing
those engaged in mixing and depositing the bait follow the directions
issued and take the precautions necessary when handling any poison,
there is little likelihood of harm coming to them. There is however
one definite advantage in its use. It is known to be more toxic than
any other recommended poison, and the smallest quantity of "1080"
poison bait eaten by a rat is sufficient to kill it, whereas with
Warfarin continuous feeding is necessary for several days before
sufficient poison to prove fatal is consumed by the rats Bearing in
mind the amount of alternative food available to rats in sewers it is
possible that the lethal amount of poison bait may never be taken
During the past five years only one case of Well's disease has
been confirmed and the sewerman in question has made good recovery.
In 1956 it was necessary to find new accommodation for the rodent
control staff as those then occupied were within a Clearance Area,
Alterations and modifications were carried out to the recently
closed mortuary at the Health Centre, and these provided up-to-date
staff and mixing rooms. The lay-out has from time to time aroused
favourable interest and the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and
Pood (Infestation Control Division) have asked that official visitors
to this Country from Denmark and Israel, together with other interested
Authorities, be allowed to visit the premises.

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