Impact of Rodent Infestations
Rodent infestations can cause havoc, thus it is important to know how to prevent them. Rodents are small mammals of the order Rodentia. Examples of rodents include rats, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, hamsters, guinea pigs, beavers, gophers and porcupines.
The most notable characteristics of rodents are their sharp incisors (teeth) that they use to gnaw, break food and bite predators. The word “rodent” comes from the Latin word “rodere” which means “to gnaw”. The incisors of rodents are continuously growing so they have to gnaw to wear away the incisors and maintain a suitable length.
Among the rodents mentioned earlier, rats and mice are the ones that cause problems to humans. Some species of rats and mice live in close proximity with humans and for that reason they are called commensal rodents.
Examples of commensal rodents that can be found in Myanmar are house mice (Mus musculus), roof rats (Rattus rattus), and Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus). Some other rodent species that can be found include greater bandicoot rat (Bandicota indica), lesser bandicoot rat (Bandicota bengalensis) and Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans).
Attention must be given towards rodent infestations as they may affect humans in numerous ways. The impact of rodent infestations can be classified into economic, structural and health impact.
Agriculture is very important for Myanmar’s economy. Rice is a major food crop and major food export. The rice crops are prone to rodent infestations as rodents are omnivores that feed on almost any type of food.
According to a research, the dominant species that cause rodent infestations in the field are the greater bandicoot rats and lesser bandicoot rats, whereas in grain stores the roof rats and Polynesian rats were found to be dominant. Besides feeding on the crops and thus decreasing crop yield, rodents can also damage stored products by contaminating them with their feces, urine and even hairs, making the infested products unfit for human consumption.
What kind of structural damage can rodent infestations cause? One of the most significant ones is the damage to furniture and building structures such as walls and wall skirting. In the famous cartoon “Tom and Jerry”, Jerry the mouse can be seen living in a mouse hole. The mouse hole is an example of structural damage done by rodents.
The incisors that rodents have are their formidable weapons and thanks to them rodents can chew through a number of materials such as plastic, wood, improperly cured concrete and even bricks. Besides walls and building structures, rodents are also known to chew on electrical wires. They chew on the insulations of the wires, leaving the wires exposed, causing a short circuit and making them a fire hazard.
Health Impact of Rodent Infestations
Rodent infestations can pose health concerns to humans. Rodents are known as vectors (carriers of disease). One of the most common diseases caused by rodents is leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is caused by the bacteria that spread from rodents’ urine and its symptoms include high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, jaundice, vomiting and diarrhea.
Bubonic plague is a disease caused by a bacterium known as Yersinia pestis and the bacterium can be found inside rat fleas (Xenopsylla cheopsis). Commensal rats are known to carry the rat fleas thus causing the spread of the disease. Historically, the bubonic plague, or also known as The Black Death, had wiped out more than 60 percent of Europe’s entire population in the 14th century. Bubonic plague infects the lymphatic system and immune system. If left untreated, it can move into the blood and cause septicemic plague, or to the lungs and cause pneumonic plague.
Besides bacteria and insects, commensal rats can also carry viruses. One of the viruses carried by them is Hantavirus. Hantavirus may spread in two main ways: 1) with the inhalation of dust that is contaminated with rodent urine or droppings or 2) direct contact with rodents and their urine.
Since the transmission of the virus can be airborne, the exposure towards rodent urine and droppings that are present around us makes us susceptible to Hantavirus infection. Hantavirus causes Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) in which the infected individual will experience symptoms such as fever, chills, body aches, headaches, nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath.
The disease progresses rapidly and the infected individual experiences an abnormal fall in blood pressure and his lungs will be filled with fluid. Severe respiratory failure, resulting in death, can occur within a few days of the early stage symptoms.
How to prevent rodent infestations?
Since rodent infestations impact us in so many ways, we should do our part to prevent rodents from affecting our daily lives. There are several things that we can do to prevent rodent infestations:
1) Be vigilant and look out for signs of rodent infestations
We should always check our houses and their surroundings for signs of rodent infestations. Signs of rodent infestations include droppings, gnaw marks and rub marks. Rub marks are formed when the body of rodents touches the surroundings as they travel. Rub marks are usually found along the walls as rodents prefer to travel close to the walls.
2) Always make sure that doors and windows are properly closed
Open doors and windows are invitations for rodents to visit and infest your house. Be sure to keep the doors and windows shut properly as rodents are agile climbers that can climb into your house through the windows. In addition, rodents are so flexible that they can squeeze through gaps that are as narrow as ¼ inch (2cm) so be sure to close the doors and windows tightly to prevent these “yoga masters” from infiltrating your house.
3) Seal up all possible rodent entry points
As mentioned earlier, rodents are very flexible and they may squeeze through gaps of size of a pencil. Therefore, any gaps around pipe works or cracks that lead into your house must be sealed to prevent the entry of rodents.
Rodents require food, water and shelter for survival therefore it is also important to get rid of food sources and nesting sites if you want to keep rodents out. Check out this article for more tips to keep mice and rats away from your house.
In order to prevent rodent infestations, it is important to stay vigilant and be mindful towards the surrounding environment. Early detection of activities facilitates the prevention of infestation and management of their population. Poor sanitation is always the cause of infestation so by practicing good sanitation practices, we will be able to keep mice away from us.
Have issues with rodent? Let our experts at Titan know your problem so that we can come out with a comprehensive rodent control program to make you worry free!