Hundreds of prisoners at Wellington Correctional Center in Australia’s New South Wales state are being forced to move out of the facility as officials scramble to repair the damage caused by mice chomping through cables, scurrying across ceiling panels and embedding in the building’s walls.
Corrective Services New South Wales Commissioner Peter Severin confirmed that “vital remediation work” needed to be carried out at the jail, which is located about four hours from Sydney, along with a thorough cleaning and review of the prison’s infrastructure.
“The health, safety and well-being of staff and inmates is our number one priority so it’s important for us to act now,” he said, as an estimated 420 male and female prisoners geared up to be relocated over the next 10 days, along with at least 200 staff members.
The facility could not be reached for further comment.
Pest control services have been summoned to remove the dead creatures from the walls, which authorities say is sending a potent stench into the air.
Australia has a mouse problem. A plague, in fact. A mass invasion occurs every decade or so, wreaking havoc across communities and destroying the crops and stock of farmers who are worried about what the future holds for their livelihoods.
Untold numbers of the critters are running rampant along the country’s Eastern grain belt, demolishing crops, sabotaging homes and forcing concerned farmers to create makeshift traps to slow down the rodents, which are able to reproduce at an alarming rate.
Some farmers say they have caught between 500 to 1,000 of the creatures in one night.
Residents told The Washington Post in recent weeks that the mice are dying in the walls and that the stench is widespread.
Kevin Corcoran, the assistant commissioner of custodial corrections, said officials would also use the time to examine how best to protect the jail from future rodent invasions.
While staff members will be stationed at other prisons in the surrounding area until the building is in better condition, some Australians told local media they didn’t believe prisoners should be moved while a deep clean takes place.
“It’s not a holiday resort, they’re in there for a reason,” one man told Prime7 News, while others highlighted the infestation poses a health risk.
And the mice have indeed been linked to health issues.
Earlier this year, hospitals in New South Wales reported infestations, with several patients being attacked by the mice, forcing them to seek (more) medical treatment. At the time, a NSW health spokesperson told ABC News that “reports of residents or patients receiving minor bites” had been made.
Officials have also identified a rare but infectious illness known as lymphocytic choriomeningitis in the region and linked it to the influx of mice, which are able to carry and pass on the virus. Symptoms of the disease include fever, bodily aches and vomiting.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are bitten by mice, handle them or are exposed to their droppings are more likely to contract the illness, which is described as being “rodent-borne.”