Rats Are Becoming an Issue Amid Restaurant Closures Due to COVID-19


On May 24, 2020, the CDC alerted the public to a spike in rat activity since quarantine orders have been in place. Urban rodentologist, Bobby Corrigan, stated in an interview, “They’re mammals just like you and I, and so when you’re really, really hungry you’re not going to act the same. So these rats fighting with one another, now adults are killing the young in the nest and cannibalizing the pups.”

Why Is There a Spike in Rodent Activity?

Ever since COVID-19 has run rampant throughout the entire world, millions of restaurants, bakeries, and other businesses have closed their doors in an effort to keep the spread down. Unfortunately places like New York, New Orleans, and Chicago, the rats have survived off of the trash. With places being closed, the rats do not have a steady food supply. This means they are desperate and hungry, making them become aggressive.

Not that any of this should be news to anyone. Most people call it “hangry,” a word coined by combining the words hungry with the word angry. Corrigan emphasizes the fact that at this time it seems the rats are “not becoming aggressive towards people, but toward each other.” So it is not surprising that this happens to rats as well.

Some jurisdictions have reported seeing an increase in rats. Due to this increase, the CDC has warned the environmental health and rodent control will see an increase in service requests. The CDC advises the people who receive the calls for rodent removal services to warn the caller to eliminate conditions that can attract rats and other rodents.

Are There Measures People Can Take?

Residential and business owners need to take preventive actions like removing thick vegetation and debris and keep trash in securely covered bins. They also advise people to remove all pet and bird food from their yards. It is also a great idea to seal up holes or accesses into the home or business. Doing this keeps rats away from the places people do not want them.

There are many different forms of rodent bait stations one may choose to purchase to help eliminate a rat issue. These traps offer an extremely attractive aroma to the rodents and upon entering the trap the rodent never leaves, which makes it much easier to locate and remove the deceased rat.

The chief entomologist at the National Pest Management Association, Jim Fredricks, stated in an interview, that a rat can carry foodborne diseases, for example, salmonella. He also said rat urine can worsen asthma and allergies.

It has been reported by Chelsea Gridley-Smith, the director of environmental health at the National Association of County and City Health Offical’s, due to the COVID-19 pandemic many health departments are focused on the virus. Therefore there is a lack of resources to help stop the spread of rats.

Other Important Preventive Measures?

Authorities say it is very important to monitor rodent activities during this time. People can report to their local pest control office if they notice mice or rat droppings, especially if one believes the issue may be more then they can handle.

It is important to wear gloves (rubber, vinyl, or plastic) when cleaning droppings and urine. The CDC recommends everyone spray the defecated area with a bleach and water mixture – one part bleach to nine parts water. Let that sit for at least five minutes before proceeding with the cleanup.

Using disposable rags or paper towels, wipe up the urine and feces. Dispose of the towels into a garbage bag. Make sure to disinfect any areas that may have had any contact with the defecation.

Clean countertops and floors with a disinfectant cleaner or using the bleach solution mentioned above. If there is any evidence of the rats being on the furniture or carpets then one must steam or shampoo these areas. Any bedding or clothing that has been exposed to the rodents needs to be washed in hot water with soap.

When cleaning out the rat’s nest, it is wise to disinfect the surrounding area with a spray or the bleach solution. Wait five minutes after spraying before using a rag or paper towel to remove the deceased or the nest. Place the items into a plastic bag and seal the bag tightly before placing them into another bag. Seal the second bag and throw it into a trash container that can be closed up tightly.

People need to remember it is extremely important to thoroughly wash their hands after removing their gloves. If soap and water are not available then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Other Places They May Invade

Squirrels, mice, and rats are the most common rodents. They invade businesses, homes, recreational vehicles, as well as other vehicles. Of course, the removal of rodents is a bit different than inside a home, however not by much.

As long as people follow the basic guidelines mentioned above, they should not experience a rodent issue. Authorities just want to make the public aware of the reports they have received about the rodents. At this time, the only ones who need to be afraid of being attacked by a rat, are younger rats.

Rats in bigger cities have been seen eating their young. Teaching the young, who manage to not be eaten, to be cannibalistic. Fredericks mentions there has been no evidence of rats being infected with the virus. The entomologist also mentions that there has not been any sign of COVID-19 being transmitted to humans from a rat.

Fredericks believes once restaurants are able to reopen, the rats will have their food source back. Therefore, rat sightings will decline, as they return to their “normal” life.

By Sheena Robertson
Edited by Jeanette Vietti


CDC: Rodents
Newsweek: CDC Warns of ‘Increase in Rodent Activity’ at Restaurants and Food Venues Closed By COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdowns
Seattle Times: CDC Warns of ‘Aggressive’ Rats Searching for Food During Shutdowns
CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Rodent Control
Forbes: More 2020 News: Rats, Mice Showing Aggressive Behaviors With Coronavirus Restaurant Closures

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Wildlife Terry’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


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