Rats are gorging themselves on corpses, cockroaches are crawling over the infirm and the Haitian government is asking for help.
Terry Clark of Clark Pest Control in Lodi is answering the Haitian government's call to help draw up a plan to deal with the nation's rampant pest problems after the massive January earthquake. The nation reached out to the National Pest Management Association, a non-profit dedicated to protecting public health, and some of its delegates.
Haiti was ravaged by poverty long before the earthquakes struck. Since the January quake, the Third World country is in even worse shape. The World Health Organization reports that infectious and parasitic diseases account for 24 percent of registered deaths for children ages 5 to 9 years old.
"Since it sometimes rains in Haiti, it's a little better than Hell," Clark said.
The vice president of Clark Pest Control in Lodi is as ready as he can be for his trip. Having been vaccinated for Typhoid fever, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Hepatitis already, Clark joked that he was going to don a flea collar during his three-day excursion to the island country.
He leaves Wednesday and returns to the United States on Friday.
The visit will focus on what hospitals and the numerous tent cities are doing to combat their fly, cockroach and rodent problems.
Clark and colleagues will set traps to help them estimate the populations of rats and cockroaches in problem areas. Whatever methods of pest control they adopt will have to be easy to put into practice and can't fully revolve around the use of toxic chemicals since the rainy season is set to begin soon. Toxic chemicals could wash away and make a bad situation worse, he said.
One way Clark intends to fight the outbreak of rats is through bucket traps filled with soapy water and sunflower seeds. The seeds lure the rats into the five-gallon buckets where they drown in the soapy water, Clark said.
Using the traps will help figure out where the population of rodents is the most concentrated and where the extermination efforts should be focused.
This week's mission is one of several planned by the National Pest Management Association to curb the pest population explosion and give Haitians the tools to handle the issue.
The task will be difficult, Clark said, because the overwhelming majority of the country is illiterate.
"We will have to train with diagrams and pictograms," he said. "Training will be critical."
The 12 members of the delegation have held conference calls and done preliminary research about what they are up against, Clark said, but he admitted that much of it is guesswork until they actually land and figure out what they are dealing with.
"I'm expecting the worst," he said.
Clark is wise to expect the worst, said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association.
"Everything going on right now is hearsay, but there are real examples of problems," she said. "The latrines so are infested with flies, residents are choosing not to use them and relieving themselves outside instead. That is adding insult to injury."
Although Clark and his constituents will be focusing on flies, rats and cockroaches, they must also be worried about mosquitos carrying Dengue fever, a virus spread by the insects. Dengue fever can cause a rash and the body's temperature to skyrocket to as high as 105 degrees.
If Clark is bitten by a mosquito carrying Dengue fever, he can pass it along to others when he returns stateside.
"If I'm bitten and then that mosquito bites someone else, they will contract Dengue fever," he said. "The Center for Disease Control said 100 percent of the mosquitos in Haiti are carrying it."
While the disease isn't deadly, Clark said he isn't taking any chances. He's brought extra mosquito nets and hopes everyone in his group does the same, because he isn't about to share.
Clark is taking every precaution to insure he returns safely.
He's bringing his own suture and syringe kit in case he is injured and can treat himself. The water in Haiti is largely undrinkable as well. To combat this, Clark is bringing his own and plans on wearing earplugs and chewing gum while showering to prevent water from accidentally entering his body.
While supportive, Clark said his both his wife and mother have reservations about the mission.
He and his wife are in the process of arranging a surrogacy and Clark said his doctor has concerns about his trip as well. Clark understands their worries but said this is something he has to do.
"What we do as an industry is protect people," he said. "This is a chance for us to put our money where our mouth is."
Clark will have a satellite phone on him and plans to blog about his experiences. To read his blog, visit blog.clarkpest.com.