Rare Rat-Borne Disease Becoming Less Rare.

New numbers out of New York state show an alarming rise in leptospirosis. This is a big deal because it is spread by rats; specifically, it’s in rat urine. The CDC reports an estimated 1 million cases per year worldwide, and in 2019 there were just 95 cases in the US. Most of these were in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. For 15 cases to already be present in New York this year is a problem.

What’s causing it?

In many areas of the country, there has been an increase in rats. With closures due to the pandemic, rats were forced from areas that were rich in food waste to other, more residential areas. Instead of being safe in their burrows with food nearby, they were driven out to find alternative sources. Weather also plays a significant role. Floods can drive rodents out of burrows and change their foraging patterns because food has been washed away. Climate change is creating more frequent and more severe weather issues which will impact rodent populations.

Brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) walking in grass on bank at night. Netherlands. Wildlife in nature of Europe.

What can be done?

Integrated pest management is key in managing Norway rat populations. Cleaning up any food resources they may be able to take advantage of will drive them away from structures to where food is more plentiful. Sanitation is also about landscaping: Norway rats like messy, overgrown areas to burrow in. Reducing outside clutter and overgrown vegetation makes the area inhospitable. Keeping them out of buildings reduces the risk of disease. Sanitation (both food and habitat) makes bait stations more attractive and therefore more effective. Use a locked and secured bait station like the EZ Secured Rodent Bait Station in key locations for rodents to access them.

Since leptospirosis is spread through rat urine, keeping the rats out means no urine or droppings on the inside. Seal up all openings, especially those low to the ground where they may be nesting or using as runways. Traps can be used by doors and other openings to ensure if one does get in, it is quickly intercepted. Using one of the best professional rodent stations like the EZ Snap Rat Trap is a good option because the trap is contained inside a station and the yellow indicator ties are a quick way to tell if the trap has been triggered.

What about the disease?

Rats can spread many diseases so protecting yourself and your customer is important. Along with all the normal IPM methods (sanitation, exclusion, trapping, baiting, etc.), take personal protection. If going into an area with rats, wear appropriate PPE including respiratory protection. Alert customers to clean up droppings and urine and take CDC approved precautions when doing so. For more information on the diseases rodent carry and protecting yourself, click here (https://www.cdc.gov/rodents/diseases/)

While leptospirosis can be treated, it can be very serious and one death has been attributed to it in NYC this year. You may not be in New York, but there are other rodent diseases in your area to be concerned about. Keeping rodent populations low, keeping them out of structures, and keeping preventative means in place can help reduce the risk of rodent-borne disease. For more on rodent control methods, click here!

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/new-york-reports-a-record-15-cases-of-a-rare-rat-linked-disease-2021-10

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis/health_care_workers/index.html

[1] https://wonder.cdc.gov/nndss/static/2019/annual/2019-table1.html

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