Rats Could Pose Danger After Flooding From Hurricane Sandy

In the aftermath of hurricane Sandy ecologists are worried over the displacement of New York City's other inhabitants, rats.

The hurricane sent a record-breaking storm surge rushing over coastal areas throughout the region causing widespread flooding and the subsequent destruction of anything that was in the flood zone. Parts of New York City that were hit the hardest may have to contend with the unexpected guests.

Some estimates state that there are nearly has many rats as there are people in New York City while others maintain that the ratio of rats to humans could be as high as 10:1. The majority of time the four legged creatures stay below street level, but after the extensive flooding the city experienced some of the rats have turned up topside.

Hurricane Sandy brought sea water to never before seen levels which caused many of the city's subway lines to be completely flooded. All East River tunnels were flooded as well subway stations that connect to those tunnels forcing the rats to find higher ground.

Rick Ostfeld, a senior scientist specializing in both disease ecology and rodent population dynamics at New York's Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, is warning of the possible consequences of having rats interact with humans on a large scale.

"I think it's quite likely that rat populations that inhabited low-lying areas of NYC (sewers, storm drains, subways, etc.) will be massively affected by Sandy … rats are excellent swimmers and climbers, and I expect them to disperse widely over the next few days to weeks," Ostfeld told HLN.com.

While the thought of rats swarming the streets in large numbers is a big concern the true danger lies in the rat's ability to carry and spread disease.

"Rats can carry a number of pathogens that are dangerous to people, including leptospirosis, typhus, salmonella, and hantaviruses … we should be aware of this possibility and be ready to control new rat infestations and also to seek medical attention if rat-borne disease is suspected," Ostfeld said.