Hong Kong's central business district, famous for gleaming skyscrapers and fashionable bars, is facing an invasion of rats.

Between January and June, the densely populated area's rodent infestation rate swelled to 17 percent from zero, based on the number of rats attracted to every 100 pieces of bait.

"Central was virtually rat-free a few months ago, then the situation deteriorated. We have to tackle the problem actively. What is important is sustained action," said Ho Yuk-yin, a consultant with the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

He attributed the influx to poor vigilance at restaurants in the area's old, run-down and poorly-maintained buildings and maze of dank alleyways.

Government officers are distributing pamphlets to educate restaurant workers about hygiene, food storage, rubbish disposal and rat prevention. Workers were also putting out poisoned bait.

The district is now the second-worst rat infested area in Hong Kong, behind a shopping center in rural New Territories. A rodent infestation rate above 20 percent is considered high.

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