Rat problem raising concerns at one of San Francisco's busiest playgrounds

"We saw a big, white, rat. Came out twice to look at us"
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Rats on the playground. That is what is being seen at one of San Francisco's busiest and nicest playgrounds.

We're talking about the Helen Diller Civic Center playgrounds near San Francisco City Hall.

Sunday evening, Jacob Ortega and his brother could be seen chasing a white rat at the northern Civic Center playground in the shadows of City Hall.

"We saw a big, white, rat. Came out twice to look at us. It was about 8 inches long, albino white, and pink nose," said Chad Avellai of Oakland.

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"I'm trying to look for a lot of rats," said 7-year-old Jacob Ortega.

But the white rat isn't alone. Other rats are also taking to the Civic Center playground areas in the later afternoon hours. Two more under the chairs Sunday night. Several Friday, including a rat that runs under an occupied slide, then under the entire play area, before jumping into the bushes. Doctors say there is cause for concern.

"Rats can transmit quite a few infections," says Dr. Peter Chin-Hong of UCSF.

Chin-Hong says he wouldn't stop sending kids to a playground due to rats, but hopes that their parents use caution.

"Number one wash your hands. Instruct kids not to put their hands in their mouth after running around a potentially rat infested area," says Chin-Hong.

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Secondly knowing the effects of certain rat illnesses like fever, diarrhea, rash, shortness of breath, or a cough.

City workers tell me the bushes at the Helen Diller playgrounds used to be trimmed very short but not anymore. We reached out to the Recreation and Parks department but have yet to hear back. It's unclear if traps have been setup or if there are any other plans to get rid of the rats.

Sunday, families who spotted some of the rats could actually be seen looking for more of the rodents.

"A little disconcerting, especially for the kids. Hopefully they can maintain or find some sort of sanitary practices," says Javier Posadas who was at the park with his son when we spoke with him.

"I think they're doing the best they can but they probably need to call an exterminator," says Jeff Paterson who was with his daughter when we spoke with him.



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