Commentary: Are people in Singapore too squeamish about pests?

Indeed, run-ins with pests are practically inevitable in Singapore. Food and beverage establishments are aplenty, and centralised refuse collection centres at apartments invite pests to proliferate. They are, after all, some of the most common, hardy and adaptable species on earth.

In other cities like Bangkok and New York, people seem to have made peace with the fact that rats are everywhere. Nobody bats an eyelid when they scurry about in train stations, along sidewalks or near refuse bins.

At the same time, we can’t be totally blase and ignore the need for pest control measures. Aside from the “ick” factor of finding pests near, or worse, in our food – like in 2015, when a rat carcass was discovered in a buffet dish at a Singapore hotpot restaurant – they are vectors of diseases.

For example, rats can carry diseases such as leptospirosis, murine typhus and hantavirus. These are spread through direct contact, breathing in dust contaminated with rat urine or droppings, or via a bite from an infected rat or its fleas. 

Rats also cause damage to infrastructure by gnawing on furniture, on wires (which could lead to short circuits and electrical fires), or on packaged foods, leading to wastage and contamination.

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