Sweep follows KC rat attack
The city sends exterminators to the neighborhood after an infant in her crib is bitten.
By CHRISTINE VENDEL
The Kansas City Star
Exterminators treated homes and sewers in a Kansas City neighborhood Monday after a rat apparently crawled into a 4-week-old baby’s crib and disfigured the girl’s face.
The girl’s parents put her in a crib next to their bed about 4 a.m. Sunday in the 4100 block of Montgall Avenue. The baby, who was born prematurely, wears a heart and breathing monitor.
About 8:40 a.m. Sunday, the parents heard the monitor’s alarm and saw their baby lying in a pool of blood. Her nose and part of her upper lip were gone.
The parents found rat feces in the crib.
Police said they think milk or formula that the baby spat up attracted the rat.
City officials reacted Monday by sending exterminators to treat the family’s home, three other occupied homes, five vacant homes, sewers and other locations near the home.
“We don’t want this to ever happen again,” said Michael Swoyer, the supervisor of the city’s rat-control program. “We’re all over the neighborhood now.”
Swoyer said that in several years of working in rat control, he had not heard of a rat attacking a human, although he said he thought less severe incidents may have occurred but were not reported.
Police said the baby’s home appeared to be well-maintained. Other children, the girl’s parents and an elderly woman who live in the home have not been bitten, they said.
Swoyer said rats can get into a house by squeezing into a hole the size of a quarter, and they can bite six times per second.
The city funded a rat-control unit in the late 1990s and early this decade but closed the unit for about three years because of budget cuts, Swoyer said. It reopened in May, he said.
Neighbors said they noticed more rats in the area in recent years.
One neighbor said she had not reported the increase because she thought the rat-control program still was shut down. The woman said she has bought rat poison and owns four cats but she occasionally sees signs that rats have made it inside.
Swoyer said residents can fight back by depriving rats of at least one of the three things they need to survive: food, water or shelter.
“Get rid of one of those things, and the rats will leave,” he said.
The city Health Department’s Web site provides advice on combating rats. The address is http://www.kcmo.org/health.nsf/web/rats
The site includes warnings to wash spilled food from the faces of babies or bedridden adults and never put a baby to bed with a bottle. The bottle could leak onto the baby fluids that are tempting to rats.
Residents also should pick up trash, keep tight lids on food and keep tall weeds away from foundations, Swoyer said.
Rats are uncannily smart, Swoyer said. It can be hard to poison them because they are wary of new things in their environment. They even will force weaker members of their colonies to eat new food first “to see if they die,” Swoyer said.
Swoyer said exterminators were lacing the neighborhood with slow-acting and painless bait that will kill the rats without other rodents knowing what caused the deaths.
Residents can report rat problems by calling Swoyer at (816) 513-6010.