Bureau de la santé environnementale et de l’hygiène
11, rue George Eastman
Rat-control in France has a public-health objective. This article aims to assess rat-related health risks through a review of the international literature. These risks are overwhelmingly infectious diseases, for which rats are the exclusive, principal or an ancillary animal reservoir. Existing and potential diseases that might affect French cities in the future have been identified and analyzed from several perspectives: the specific microbe, its transmission mechanism, the role of rats, clinical severity, and descriptive epidemiology. Several bacterial, viral, and parasitic rat-borne diseases have been identified. Most are rare in France or are due to agents for which rats play a minor role. Leptospirosis is the main exception: its incidence is somewhat significant and rats play an important role in its transmission. Rat-related health risks are nevertheless a potential threat due to changes in urban ecology, city-dwellers’ behavior, potential bioterrorist attacks, and climate change. Rats are thus an urban environmental health problem that deserves the attention of health authorities and researchers.