Rats Gone Wild: Rodents Invade SoCal Homes

Diseases and IllnessesU.S. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionHealth

LOS ANGELES -- As the temperatures start to rise, so too do unwanted pests in and around your house. Residents of a number of Los Angeles neighborhoods are reporting rat infestations in their homes.

With the recent discovery of mice infected with hantavirus in Devore and Coyote Canyon near Fontana in San Bernardino County, officials are urging residents to avoid contact with any kind of rodent and to take precautions to reduce rodent populations.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends residents eliminate any available food sources by storing food and trash in rodent-proof containers, and frequently cleaning the containers with soap and water. Pet food and birdseed are favorite snacks of rodents. Pet food should not be left out, but removed after the pet has eaten. If you have rats or mice, you may want to remove any birdfeeders around your home as well.

Residents are also advised to trap any mice or rats they see, rather than using poison which can lead to unwanted odors and hidden carcasses. Be sure to seal up all entry holes and plug any gaps inside as well as outside your home with steel wool, metal lath or caulk.

Keep in mind that rodents can enter your home through holes as small as a quarter and can breed seven times a year. They typically invade cool spots in search of water. They can often be found in crawl spaces underneath homes and in attics, but can eventually migrate into other parts of your home with enough time and opportunity.

Not only are the pests embarrassing and a nuisance, but they, and their droppings, can carry disease. Their hair, dandruff, and dust from their droppings can trigger asthma and other respiratory problems. Hantavirus is a deadly respiratory disease that can be spread to humans who inhale dust from contaminated droppings and urine. Early hantavirus symptoms are similar to the flu and can include cough, fatigue, headache, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting. People infected with hantavirus need supportive therapy to help them recover.

Hantavirus is usually spread by the deer mouse or white-footed mouse, not the common house mouse or roof rat found in most home infestations. Many other diseases can be spread by common rats and mice.The deer mouse or white-footed mouse is usually found in rural or natural areas, and could pose a problem year-round to residents of those areas.

After you have secured your home from future infestation, areas where rodents traveled need to be cleaned and disinfected. Never breathe in dust from rodent feces or urine. Never use a broom and dustpan, or a household vacuum cleaner, to remove rodent droppings. To reduce the risk of breathing in mold spores and other dangerous contaminants, hire a professional, or follow the specific instructions laid out on the CDC website, including spraying the urine and droppings with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water before you begin cleaning it. (There is a method that must be followed for safety and effectiveness.) A mask, gloves, and other protective gear are required.

For more information on how to deal with rodent infestations, please see the following websites:

http://www.cdc.gov/rodents/index.html(800) CDC-INFO(800) 232-4636

www.abolishpestcontrol.com(877) 4ABOLISH(805) 584-3423

www.ocvcd.org(Orange County Vector Control District)

http://lapublichealth.org/eh/pests.htm(L.A. Public Health)

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