Seattle may be one of the 'rattiest' cities -- but is that dangerous?

SEATTLE -- Rats have been spotted in stores, schools, and out on the streets.

“It’s mostly late at night or early in the morning,” says Tristan Sellers. “There would be little swarms or families I’d see running between the bushes or across the street.”

“I see them in the gutters, I see them shooting out between buildings and alleyways,” adds Marc Yeomans.

A recent list by the pest control company Orkin, ranked Seattle as the sixth ‘rattiest’ city in the country.

“I guess it doesn’t really come as a surprise, because we’ve got a lot of nature around us,” says Sellers.

The Seattle-King County Public Health Department responds to calls about rats. They have noticed an uptick recently.

“It’s seasonal,” says Yolanda Pon. “We have higher incidents of complaints, because people are outside and they notice more.”

The city sets baits in the sewer system to try and keep the rat population under control.

“We may have more rodents if we didn’t have that program.”

But some people think more should be done.

“They’re disgusting and dirty,” says Yeomans. “And with everything going on in the world today, you never know what they’re going to carry.”

Scientists in New York have been studying what pathogens rats carry. They found a variety of bacteria and viruses similar to salmonella and hepatitis, which could make people sick.  Public health officials say those results are interesting, but they don’t have the staff to do a similar study here. And they don’t see the need to.

“Unless there’s local medical places that are seeing certain diseases that are associated with rats, I think just preventing them from coming in contact with humans would be the best,” says Pon.

That’s why she wants to focus on educating people about cleaning up yard waste and compost bins, eliminating anything that could be a food source or nesting area.

“I think we always will be living with rats, no matter what. As far as it being a problem, that’s up to the public to be responsible for their own property.”