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Following is a question by the Dr Hon Priscilla Leung and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (May 15):
Regarding rodent infestation in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) given that the Rodent Infestation Rates (RIRs) released regularly by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) have been used for 13 years, whether the authorities will review the relevant mechanism to ensure that RIRs can accurately reflect the rodent infestation situation in the various districts;
(b) of the specific results of the First Phase (from December 28, 2011 to February 24, 2012) and Second Phase (from July 30 to September 28, 2012) of the Anti-rodent Campaign 2012 held by FEHD; given that the territory-wide RIR stood at 2.4% in 2012, which was higher than the RIR in 2010 (1.5%) and 2011 (1.7%) recorded before the Anti-rodent Campaign was held, whether it has assessed if the Campaign was ineffective; whether the authorities will adjust the contents and strategy of this year’s Anti-rodent Campaign in the light of the experience and results of the Anti-rodent Campaign 2012;
(c) given that Kowloon City District’s RIR had dropped significantly from 5% in 2009 to 0.9% and 1.4% respectively in the subsequent two years but rose back to 5.6% in 2012, which was even the second highest RIR across the territory, whether the authorities have assessed the factors leading to the deterioration of the rodent infestation problem in the district last year; whether the authorities will step up the various anti-rodent measures in the light of the rising RIR of the district; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(d) whether the authorities have exchanged experience and knowledge in anti-rodent work with the municipal staff from the Mainland or other overseas cities in the past two years; if so, of the subject matters of such exchanges; whether the authorities will further strengthen the relevant exchange activities (including inviting Mainland and overseas experts to Hong Kong to participate in anti-rodent work and assist in training the staff concerned); if so, of the specific plans; if not, the reasons for that?
Effective rodent prevention and control hinge on close collaboration between the community and the Government, as well as sustained efforts over time. Since 2000, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has been making use of the rodent infestation rate (RIR) and the trend movement of the RIR (which reflects the general situation of rodent infestation in individual districts) as the basis for devising anti-rodent measures and assessing the overall efficacy of rodent prevention and disinfestation work. When conducting rodent prevention and control operations, FEHD makes appropriate adjustments to the work in individual districts from time to time, taking into account reports from frontline staff the views of the relevant District Council and the local community, as well as the district RIR.
My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:
(a) FEHD conducts RIR surveys in rodent-infested areas or areas likely to have rodent problems, in particular areas with bustling human activities. The Department sets baits in selected localities annually to gather statistics on the ratio of baits bitten by rodents for making meaningful comparison of RIRs under the same benchmark. Changes to the RIR readings in individual districts over time facilitate our assessment of progress made and the overall efficacy of our work, as well as provide an informed basis for allocation of resources.
An internationally adopted RIR does not at present exist. When devising the RIR, FEHD has made reference to overseas practices and the actual situation of Hong Kong. The Department has, in the course of time, tried out different methods. Having regard to a number of factors including our local climate, environmental condition and the habits of domestic rodents, the Department has come to the conclusion that adopting the ratio of baits gnawed by rodents as the infestation rate is the most suitable method for Hong Kong. As there have not been major changes in the environment or rodents’ habits in Hong Kong in recent years, it is our considered view that the current survey approach remains relevant and appropriate.
The Administration will continue to keep in view rodent prevention and control (including rodent infestation assessment) methods adopted by the World Health Organization and major cities around the world.
(b) In the past three years, the RIR for Hong Kong as a whole, stayed at the low end of the scale namely 1.5%, 1.7% and 2.4% respectively. Notwithstanding a slight increase in the overall RIR in 2012, it compares favourably with the average RIR (of around 4.1%) in the past five years, indicating that rodent infestation in the public areas of Hong Kong remains generally under control.
FEHD has been organising anti-rodent campaigns on an annual basis to remind the public of the importance of rodent prevention and control. In 2012, the anti-rodent campaign was conducted in two phases in the 18 districts of Hong Kong, bearing the theme of “Eliminate Rodent Nuisance – Take Preventive Measures”. Target areas mainly included markets/market buildings, hawker bazaars, typhoon shelters and rear lanes adjacent to food premises, and other rodent-infested locations and their vicinity. Apart from combating rodent infestation in individual districts, the anti-rodent campaigns also aim at enhancing public knowledge and awareness in prevention and control of rodents. During the campaigns, apart from stepping up anti-rodent operations in collaboration with relevant Government departments, FEHD distributes promotional leaflets, displays posters and organises talks to promote anti-rodent knowledge and awareness, with a view to fortifying public education in this respect. When planning anti-rodent campaigns, FHED makes appropriate adjustments to the overall strategy in the light of the actual state of rodent infestation across the territory and in different districts, as well as the effectiveness of previous anti-rodent campaigns.
Given the high adaptability and reproductive rate of rodents, the state of rodent infestation in individual districts may vary with changes in environmental hygiene conditions and the level of public participation in rodent prevention and control work. In view of this, FEHD will continue to roll out anti-rodent campaigns to remind members of the public of the importance of rodent prevention and control. Apart from organising anti-rodent campaigns, FEHD will continue to take dedicated rodent prevention and control measures and actions in districts with relatively high RIRs.
(c) The state of rodent infestation in individual districts may vary with changes in environmental hygiene conditions and the level of public participation in rodent prevention and control work. As rodents are very adaptive and have a high reproductive rate, active participation of the public is indispensable if anti-rodent work is to achieve optimal results. As for the Kowloon City District, FEHD has strengthened the rodent prevention and control work as well as the general cleansing work in the district, e.g. by stepping up inspection and cleansing of rear lanes adjacent to food premises so as to reduce the food sources and hiding places of rodents. FEHD has also enhanced publicity and education efforts in the district to remind residents and commercial tenants of the importance of adopting anti-rodent measures. FEHD will continue to maintain close liaison with the Kowloon City District Council to seek their support in encouraging active local participation in rodent prevention and control work to sustain anti-rodent efforts.
(d) FEHD shares experience with relevant organisations of other countries/cities from time to time. In the past two years, FEHD has met with Mainland experts, including experts of the Guangdong Field Epidemiology Training Programme, staff members of the Jiangmen Office for Disease Control and Prevention and Guangdong Pest Control Association, for the purpose of sharing with each other best practices in rodent prevention and control. FEHD staff have also attended international conferences in the Mainland and overseas cities, including Haikou, Krakow in Poland, Adelaide in Australia and Boston in the United States, for sharing experience with overseas experts and keeping ourselves abreast of latest advances in rodent disinfestation methodology.