Rodent Control and Modern Health Concerns
January 2023, Matthew S. Hess
Back to the 1300’s and beyond, there are documented infestations of rodents causing major health concerns and rodent control issues. The Black Death of the 1300’s wiped out an estimated 75-200 million people in Eurasia. The 1800’s Plague pandemic made its way across the world via trade routes and killed many. And let’s not forget the 1920’s mouse infestation of Taft, California. An estimated 100 million mice ripped through the town destroying crops and even reportedly eating at least one live sheep! Whichever major infestation we view throughout history, one common theme is; rodents leave a wake of death and disease in their pathway when left to their own devices!
Modern day rodent infestations in the US seem to be a bit less aggressive than those in history. That’s partly due to our advancements in civilization, modern housing, better hygiene and sanitation, modern control techniques and modern control products. Couple these together and you can quickly understand why we have fewer major issues now than did our ancestors. But let us not get too proud of ourselves just yet. It doesn’t take a large infestation to cause health concerns. As a matter of fact, what we see in modern infestations is less wide spread and more contained. Yes, infestations come and go in random (or maybe not so random) areas. But one home at a time… one building at a time is more common now than in the past.
The two yellow arrows mark an entry hole to a burrow in the insulation of this attic. There were many more spread throughout. Just below the arrows you can see a mouse carcass. These types of issues can certainly spell disaster!
Problems Our Ancestors Could Have Never Imagined
These types of infestations pose problems our ancestors could have never dreamed of! Sure, the Plague is certainly terrible, right? Of course it is, but so is burning alive! Our ancestors of long ago didn’t have electric wires in their homes. Yes, rodents still carry and transmit all sorts of diseases and illnesses across the world but here in the US, the problems they cause are a bit different. While they can and do spread diseases here, other concerns like building fires exist as well and in some cases are more a threat than disease.
It is estimated that around 20% of all determined and undetermined structure fires are caused by rats or mice. I’ll be honest with you; I’m less worried about the transmission of the plague or rat-bite fever at my home than I am a structure fire. In almost all cases where serious disease resulting in high death rates were caused by rodents, the rodent populations were extremely high. That truth still prevails, generally, even today. But here’s the kicker… IT ONLY TAKES ONE MOUSE TO BURN DOWN YOUR ENTIRE HOME!
Think about that! One tiny little mouse or one rat or one squirrel is all it takes to chew through a wire, catch the building on fire and burn it to the ground. With that being said, rodents tend to be primarily nocturnal. This means they are active at night when most of us are in bed. In most cases where single-family structure fires cause casualties, it’s at night when people are asleep. This makes one single rodent in your home a viable and serious threat to your family!
Rodent Poo in the AC Vents??
Modern homes generally have HVAC ducting. This raises even more issues. Not only do we have possible diseases stemming from rodents but modern issues as well. Issues like poor crawlspace-conditioned air being circulated through the living quarters due to rodent damaged duct work. Because of this, less rodents are required to spread illnesses. Our ancestors certainly had a lot of worries when it came to rodent infestations but the worries they had are not ours. We need to concentrate on the issues which affect our health today and address those rather than the issues of a bygone era!
Not “Out with the Old”, but “In with the New”
I’ve listened to the experts in our industry repeat the same information about all the diseases and sicknesses rodents can cause for nearly 25 years. I’ve studied it myself and used the same information in several lectures and articles. The information is true, important and relevant across the world. Yet, it has become apparent to me that it’s just quite rare for any of those illnesses to stem from the kind of infestations we see in the US. It’s certainly not impossible and this information needs to be propagated lest we forget the past and allow it to happen again. But with every passing year, it becomes more apparent that the likelihood of an infestation of ancient proportions is less and less likely.
This caused me to re-think what health and safety information we should propagate to the public should include. After all, information on how to care for your horse-drawn buggy is useless when you drive a brand new Navigator! However, the information is still relevant since certain groups of people still use the horse and buggy.
As you can see, mice have been eating the bait (green block nailed to the 2×4). Trapping and baiting methods are often used hand-in-hand for rodent control. Having mice in your attic may not seem like an issue of concern, however, note the visible wires. It only takes one mouse to chew through a wire and start a structure fire!
Of course, the possibility for rodent-spread disease is still present. We must propagate that information continually even though it is less prevalent in the US and certainly less prevalent than in times past. Today in the US, it seems less likely to be faced with rodent-spread disease than a rodent-induced structure fire. A multi-million dollar housing project filled with sleeping occupants can be burned to the ground by one mouse. Once one realizes this, it becomes less important to worry about a possible large infestation and instead, focus in on the effects of even a single mouse. After all, if eliminating an infestation of rodents begins with preventative measures, disease and illness would never be any concern! This brought rodent control and modern health concerns to a new perspective for me. I hope it does for you as well.
If you are experiencing rodents, noise in your attic, droppings, chew marks or any other signs, PLEASE don’t wait until they do irreparable damage. Even if your home or business doesn’t suffer from a rodent-induced fire (and we hope it doesn’t) the cost for damages can be extensive. Chewed wires and plumbing, destroyed duct work and all the damage they can do to a structure can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. However, most range from a thousand to six thousand dollars. Sure, that’s better than death but if we can stop both, why wouldn’t you want that? Find a professional exterminator and get a rodent control program in place as soon as you can. Your life may be at risk. But even if it isn’t, your wallet will be!
Remember, it’s okay to live among pests… but you don’t have to live with them!