National Geographic : 1917 Jul
Photograph from Zuschlag OFFICIALS RECEIVING RATS KILLED BY CHILDREN DURING A CAMPAIGN AGAINST THEM IN COPENHAGEN "By a small reward to the juvenile members of the family for rats captured, the pests may be kept down and the primitive joys of the chase experienced by the young trappers" (see page 17). This gives a total of 200,000 men, with their equipment, in this country, whose economic output is devoted solely to feed ing and otherwise providing for rats. If a small fraction of this army and the money involved could be concentrated in a continuous national campaign against these pests a vast saving could be achieved. By a nation-wide effort to increase rat proofing of structures, and to cause a stricter guardianship of food products, combined with the destruction of rats, the number of these pests could be so greatly diminished that the losses from this source would soon be reduced one-half. Rats should be exterminated not only to stop the tremendous losses of food and other property, to which attention has already been drawn, but in order to protect humanity from some of its most dreaded diseases. It has been conclu sively proved that these rodents are prac tically the sole distributors of the bu bonic plague which is communicated to human beings from infected rats by means of fleas. THEY SPREAD THE PLAGUE The history of, the , plague runs back several centuries before the Christian era. There were particularly deadly out breaks of it in Europe during the Middle Ages. In the fourteenth century it killed from two-thirds to three-fourths of the population of several countries, and it has been estimated that 25,000,000 people died in Europe from this disease, which was known as the "black death." Sir James Crichton-Browne, president of the Society for the Destruction of Vermin, has recorded the fact that in 1907 2,000, ooo deaths from the rat-borne plague oc curred in India. The bubonic plague appears to have periods of quiescence, or what might be called periods of incubation; but it is possible that these periods of inactivity may be due to the great reduction in the rat population due to the disease. Sud denly it appears to become virulently active and spreads with startling rapidity. This accounts for its recurrence at vary ing intervals since the dawn of history.