As part of the state health plan to control murine typhus, Adrian Marzoeki placed a container of poisoned oats yesterday in a back yard at Maui Meadows in South Maui.

Workers spread poison
to kill rodents

Typhus infection reported on Oahu

By Gary T. Kubota

MAUI MEADOWS, Maui >> Near high brush and rocks separating cattle land from residential homes in South Maui, Adrian Marzoeki places a box containing flea powder and poisoned oats to kill rodents that have been coming down in increasing numbers from pasture lands.

The job is hot and requires some workers to wear breathing apparatuses when putting flea powder and bait in the boxes, but Marzoeki said he enjoys helping in the fight to control murine typhus.

"It makes me feel good," Marzoeki said.

As confirmed cases of murine typhus climb to higher-than-usual numbers on Maui, state health officials are using workers once hired to successfully control the mosquito-borne dengue fever outbreak to battle an increase in mice and rats.

Murine typhus is a bacterium that is transmitted usually when a flea bites an infected rodent, then bites a human being.

Several workers laid 79 boxes in the Maui Meadows area on Tuesday and again yesterday and are planning to begin laying poison boxes in southern Lahaina today.

The workers also will be setting boxes at Omaopio in lower Kula soon, said Jerry Alpis, a state vector control inspector.

Alpis, who has been an inspector for 27 years on the Valley Isle, said there have usually been a couple of typhus cases a year on Maui, mostly in Kihei. So far this year, the Valley Isle has had eight of the state's 10 confirmed cases.

"I've never seen it this way," Alpis said.

The workers, wearing pants, long-sleeve shirts and gloves, spray their shoes, socks and cuff areas with an anti-flea chemical. The openings in the black plastic containers holding the poisoned bait and flea powder are too small for larger animals, such as cats and dogs.

Alpis said while the mice are eating the poisoned oats, they are also exposing themselves to the flea powder and can carry it with them back to their burrows.

He said residents can help in rodent control by clearing trash and fallen fruit from their yards.

At a cul-de-sac in Maui Meadows, a dead mouse lay in a driveway yesterday while another was flattened on the road.

"They're all over the place," said Marzoeki, who begins to examine a residence.

Alpis said the plan is to establish a buffer between the pasture lands and the residences by laying the rodent poison along the edges of the Maui Meadows community.

He said while most homeowners welcome the rodent control, the workers sometimes are not able to cover all residences.

During the work yesterday, one homeowner did not want the workers to put any poison on his property, and some residents were not home.

Maui Meadows resident Joe Daleo said he was happy that the state was attempting to control the rodent population, and allowed workers to set two bait stations on the edge of his family's property.

Daleo said he recently killed five mice in his house with glue traps.

"There's one right now," said Daleo, pointing to a mouse darting into a concrete hole near a sliding glass door outside the house.

Daleo said he has been spending at least $15 a month on devices to kill them. "Every day, I've been picking up five to six of them."

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