Disease carrying mammal of the year:


Rats. Rodents. Vermin. These omnipresent omnivores go by many names, most unpostable on a family web site. Like 'em or not, in 2003, rats teemed over silver screens in a flurry of fear-inducing fangs and fur. The remake of "Willard" started the trend, with pale-skinned thesp Crispin Glover having a loathsome love-fest with the heinous horde.



 This rat raps! Snoop Dogg slums as the voice of Ronnie Rizzat.

 Probably prowling for some Chizzeez.

Next up was no less than Skinnies winner Snoop Dogg as a rappin' rodent in "Malibu's Most Wanted." That's right, he was a rizzat, for shizzle. And even if you spend your life at the auto show, no souped up set of wheels was more memorable then rats partying in a piping hot pail in "2 Fast 2 Furious."

Why do most of us find rats repellent? Lingering memories of their role as carriers of the plague have created an adverse association that even the craftiest PR agent can't undo. Thousands of unhygienic people died during the Black Death in the European Middle Ages, infected by Yersinia pestis bacteria delivered by rat fleas. Bubonic plague is characterized by high fevers, swollen lymph nodes, an occasional red rash, and shock. The infection is lethal if not treated with antibiotics.

 Plague is not the only disease these vermin bring. Endemic typhus is also transmitted by rat flea bites, causing fever, chills, and a rash. If one has the great luck to be bitten by a rat and get a fever, you might just have Rat Bite Fever and should ask your doc for antibiotics. Don't forget to call the exterminator.


In a bizarre twist, in 2003 an imported infected Giant Gambian rat carried the viral scourge of monkeypox to the Western hemisphere. Fortunately for monkeys, they are at small risk for this smallpox-like condition, but domesticated prairie dogs caught and transmitted the virus to humans. Aren't exotic pets the best? Just who out there is in the market for Giant Gambian rats, anyway? Finally, rat mites can cause a pesky itchy rash that resembles scabies. All and all, word to the wise: If you find rats adorable, cute, and irresistible, consider rat-lovers anonymous support group. Or psychotherapy. Or both.

 Runners up, disease carrying mammal:

You really need more than rats?



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