Hantavirus scare should ensure residents check homes for mice

Yosemite National Park visitors have been experiencing a scare recently, as more vacationers who stayed at the wilderness park are coming down with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

Although it is a rare illness, the disease can be fatal. The park has thus far learned of four cases of the disease, two of which have led to death.

Officials are contacting those who stayed in the park's Curry Village this summer, advising them to be aware of hantavirus symptoms. The park has advised that every Yosemite visitor should keep an eye out for signs of infection.

The disease is carried by mice and can spread to humans that come into contact with an infected mouse's urine, droppings or saliva. It may take weeks for signs of the disease to develop after a victim has come into contact with an infected mouse. Early symptoms of hantavirus include fever, aches and pains, chills and dizziness. Once the illness has progressed, it results in coughing, shortness of breath and fluid filling the lungs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Homeowners, especially those who live in rural areas, should be aware of any mouse activity near their homes to prevent coming into contact with the virus. Simple steps such as storing food in airtight containers and keeping homes clean and free of clutter and trash will give mice less of a reason to enter the home. However, as a precaution, any holes or gaps that could provide entry to the home should be closed off, no matter how small they appear. Mice need only a tiny space to enter a home, potentially bringing hantavirus with them.

Those who come across a room or structure infested with mice should take precautions to avoid picking up the disease. A building with a mouse problem should have the windows opened to air out the space, but caution should be taken so an individual does not disturb any dust. Areas covered in mouse droppings or urine should be sprayed with a disinfectant and left to sit for several minutes before cleaning. The waste should be tightly sealed and thrown out immediately.

The same process applies to those who find a dead mouse in their home. The rodents should be sprayed, bagged and tossed. If live pests are discovered, they should not be touched. A mouse infestation should be handled by pest control professionals who can ensure the rodents will no longer pose a threat to the household.

The dangers of a rodent infestation

Even though some people may think they're cute, a rodent infestation in a home is nothing to smile about. Aside from causing damage to the house and being a nuisance, a rodent infestation can be a serious health hazard. Rats and mice both spread disease when they enter homes, and these health risks can be fatal. These illnesses can be spread in several ways, so even if you haven't seen a rodent indoors yet, one could be lurking behind the walls, contaminating your home.

Rodent bites
Even though rodent bites are not very common, it is important to avoid them at all costs. A bite from a sick mouse or rat can spread disease to humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infected rodent bites can transmit Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis, the plague and other serious illnesses. If there is an infestation in your home, take care to avoid bites by not handling the pests and leave their removal to an exterminator.

Tainted food
Just like humans, rodents need to eat. Because mice will sometimes get into pantries and cupboards for a snack, it is important to store food in airtight containers if a rodent infestation is suspected. Once in a pantry, the mice can contaminate your food with their urine and droppings. Rodents can also contaminate food left out on counters and tables. Unintentionally eating this food can result in the spread of disease to humans. It is not uncommon for homeowners with rodent infestations to unknowingly ingest foods that have been soiled with mouse droppings or urine. Eating these foods can spread Leptospirosis, Rat-Bite Fever, Salmonellosis or Tularemia, according to the CDC.

Breathing contaminated air
Even if you're keeping an eye out for rodents and taking the proper food-storage precautions to deter rodents from your pantry, there's still a chance rodents could be spreading disease. You don't need to come into direct contact with a rat or inadvertently ingest bad food to become ill from a rodent infestation. Simply breathing their air or dust that is tainted with rodent urine or droppings is enough to sicken some households. Unknowingly inhaling contaminated dust can result in illnesses such as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, Hemorrhagic Fever or Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis.

Because a rodent infestation can be a serious health hazard, it is important to handle the problem swiftly. Making a call to pest control experts will ensure that rodents are eliminated from your home and the risk of disease is eliminated.

Is there a mouse in your house?

Do you suspect a mouse infestation in your home? You are probably not alone – mice are a common pest to discover inside houses. Once these rodents get into your residence, it is important to identify them and remove them as soon as possible. Mice breed frequently, so their population can expand rapidly if they are not removed promptly. Knowing the signs of mice may assist homeowners in knowing when there's a rodent problem in the home.

Look
If you suspect there are mice in your home,  keep an eye out for signs of the pests. Many homeowners cite mouse droppings as the reason they discovered an infestation. These droppings are usually spotted near where the mice eat and find shelter, but it is not uncommon to find them in other places as well. Some homeowners may find mouse tracks in dusty areas, and these can include pawprints as well as tail marks. Finding gnaw marks on items and boxes in your pantry is also not uncommon when mice are searching for food. You may even be able to spot the rodents yourself, and their nests are sometimes stumbled upon while in garages, closets, attics and basements.

Listen
Mice are noisy pests to have in your home, and they can often be heard moving about. Because they are primarily nocturnal, the sounds they make will probably be heard primarily at night. Homeowners should listen for signs of mice in their walls, attics, ceilings and crawlspaces. If you hear climbing, scratching, squeaking or gnawing during the night, you may be dealing with an infestation. These noises can get extremely loud depending on the severity of the infestation.

Smell
Mice may cause some homes to have an unpleasant odor. When mice die in a home, the bodies take weeks to decompose, and the smell that comes with it takes even longer to go away. A dead mouse is not the only rodent that will cause a stench. Severe mouse infestations can cause an entire home to have an odor, due to the excrement they leave in walls and insulation. These smells must be eliminated, or they will attract more rodents and pests to your home.

Because mice can cause serious damage to home and pose a potential health hazard, it is important to have them removed as soon as possible by pest control professionals.

Do you have a bed bug infestation?

Bed bugs have become increasingly common over the last few years, and it seems that no one is immune to an infestation. While the pests were fairly common in the past, they were nearly eradicated after World War II. Unfortunately, some colonies survived and have spread all over the world.

The pests have been found in hotels, public buildings and college dorm rooms. If they haven't found their way into your home yet, it may just be a matter of time before the bed bugs start biting. It is important for a homeowner to know what to look for when a bed bug infestation is suspected, so pest control experts can take the appropriate actions immediately.

Examine your skin
One of the first bed bugs signs some people notice is red, itchy welts on their bodies. Bed bugs feed on human blood and their saliva often causes an allergic reaction in humans. This causes the bitten area to swell and itch. The pests are usually active at night, and the welts may not be noticeable for a day or more. If anyone in your home has such symptoms, it is important to quickly determine if the cause of the bumps is bed bugs.

Even though their bites leave irritating welts, bed bug bites cannot transmit disease. However, their presence may cause emotional distress for a homeowner dealing with an infestation.

Check your furniture
Bed bugs are often found in mattresses. If an infestation is suspected, a homeowner should first examine mattresses and box springs. Signs of bed bugs often include dark spots on a mattress, molted skin or even the insects themselves. Since the bugs tend to hide during the day, it is important to check in cracks and seams when looking for signs of the pests. Bed bug eggs are tiny and light-colored, making them hard to spot, but they may be visible on darker surfaces.

Mattresses are not the only places bed bugs like to call home. They also can infest headboards, bed frames and other pieces of furniture. Closely examine all furniture, especially pieces with creases, folds and seams since the pests tend to hide in these areas.

Call in a professional
It is impossible for a homeowner to successfully eliminate a bed bug issue on their own. The pests are notoriously difficult to get rid of, but professional exterminators can rid a structure of the blood-sucking bugs.

The dangerous pest in your home

One of the most common household insects may also be one of the most dangerous. Most homeowners have had experiences with house flies at some point, and not realized just how germy the pests can be. During the summer months, when windows and doors are opened frequently, it is easy for these insects to zoom inside and make a home for themselves.

Even though they seem to be a mere annoyance, flies can be a dangerous pest to have indoors. These insects have been known to spread filth and disease, and there is a chance there are some crawling about your home this very minute. Taking the appropriate insect control measures to deal with a fly problem can prevent serious illnesses from occurring.

The filth on a fly
When a fly gets into your home, it doesn't enter alone. It brings with it disease and bacteria which can be harmful to both humans and pets. The germs on a fly can include pathogens that cause dangerous conditions such as typhoid, tuberculosis and cholera. Aside from these critical illnesses, flies can also spread common bacterial infections because they carry so many microorganisms on their bodies. Because flies walk on rotting garbage, fecal material and other germy surfaces, they pick up more dangerous bacteria each time they land.

Spreading disease quickly
Flies spread illnesses quickly because they land with astonishing frequency. Every time a fly touches down on a surface in your home, it spreads bacteria and pathogens to the area. This makes sanitizing the areas that flies have touched very important to prevent the spreading of disease. Since flies tend to land on human meals and utensils, putting these items away quickly can prevent the further contamination of food.

Keeping an infestation under control
Flies breed extremely rapidly, and a few pesky flies can quickly become a full-blown infestation. Besides having an excessive number of flies in the home, signs of an infestation can include maggots in food and garbage. To prevent breeding in the areas, food should be properly sealed in tight containers, and trash cans should be emptied regularly. If the flies in your home are just too numerous to kill with an ordinary flyswatter, it may be time to call in professional exterminators. A pest control expert can determine how to best rid the home of the flies and prevent an infestation from occurring in the future.

Ensure West Nile-carrying mosquitoes aren’t around your home

As the summer continues, so do stories about the potentially deadly West Nile Virus. The illness has plagued almost every state so far this year, but no state has seen more cases of the virus than Texas. The mayor of Dallas declared a state of emergency, and many other communities are worried that a bite will infect them with the sickness.

Many people think those who get sick catch West Nile from venturing out into the wilderness, or lingering near areas with standing water, such as lakes or ponds. This is not the case – most people catch West Nile in their own backyards. If you don't take proper pest control precautions in and around your home, it could result in a serious condition for a member of the family.

The danger in your backyard
Take a walk through your yard, and you'll be amazed at the amount of breeding grounds available to mosquitoes. Wet flower pots, pools, bird baths, clogged gutters and a bowl of water for the family dog provide ample opportunities for the blood-sucking pests to reproduce. Just a tiny amount of water is enough to produce a new generation of mosquitoes that could potentially carry West Nile Virus.

What's worse is the mosquitoes will not travel far from their homes, meaning all the pests in your backyard at dusk are likely hiding out there all day. They are likely taking refuge in shady places or plants, just waiting for the opportunity to bite.

Preventative measures in and around the home
Don't rely on luck alone to spare your family from West Nile. The life threatening disease can be prevented by taking simple steps to make your home unfriendly to the pests. Take the first step and examine your home for areas bugs may be able to enter through. Because some mosquitoes like to invade homes, it is important to make sure window and door screens are well-fitted and free from tears. Keep the buzzing pests out of the house by making sure doors and windows are kept closed if screens are unavailable or defective.

Your yard should be your next stop when trying to eliminate the risk of West Nile. Carefully check your yard for standing water and drain as much as possible. Getting rid of something as small as a puddle in a flowerpot may save a family member from the severe disease.

If these steps have been taken and mosquitoes are still increasing around your home, it may be time to call in a pest control expert to get rid of the insects in and around your house.

Keep pests out of the home this fall

Summertime isn't the only season when bugs attempt to invade homes. When the autumn weather hits, the natural resources an insect relies on for survival become increasingly scarce. This can cause backyard bugs to march into homes as they search for food and shelter. No matter what sort of pests an area is known for, almost any bug can get into a residence and set up a home. As the weather begins to cool this fall, it is important for homeowners to be vigilant about pest control measures in order to prevent an infestation.

Make homes unfriendly to pests
Insects come into homes in a search for food, water and shelter that are no longer available to them outdoors. It is important to make sure these resources are not available to them. Make sure dirty dishes are washed promptly, teach all family members to put food away in tightly sealed containers and wipe down counters and other surfaces that tend to accumulate crumbs. These steps will prevent pests from finding food in the home. Deny insects water by getting rid of standing water in or around the home.

Ensure there are no entry points
Keep insects away by denying them access to the home. Once the air conditioning is turned off to let the cool fall breezes in, it's important to check screens and make sure there are no tears or holes. Inspect the exterior of the home to ensure there are no ways bugs can get in. Any cracks should be sealed, since a small pest can easily squeeze through a tiny area. Doors should close completely and not have any extra space at the sides or underneath that a bug could sneak through. While examining the outside of the home, it is also important to check on plants that are near the house. Bushes, trees and shrubs that are right up against windows or doors can provide easy access for some insects, who use them to crawl up to an entry point.

Keep the problem under control
When a homeowner has carefully taken the proper precautions to avoid a fall infestation, it can be discouraging to discover a pest inside the home. Although one bug may not be a problem, it can be a sign of a larger infestation. Keeping an eye out for more of the insects will reveal if a bigger issue exists. If fall pest troubles are discovered, it is important to have insect control professionals assess the situation. Exterminators can take a look at the problem, recommend the best form of treatment and let a homeowners know other preventative steps to take in the future.

Rescuing your home from roaches

Every homeowner dreads finding a cockroach in their house. These pests, which can survive in the most unpleasant of conditions, can be difficult to get rid of. If an infestation is discovered, homeowners should contact pest control experts immediately for professional advice and removal. An untreated roach problem will only continue to get worse over time. There are several signs of roaches in a home, and with the help of an insect control professional, the bugs can be eliminated.

Check dark spaces
Roaches are nocturnal and prefer to come out in the dark. Dim, moist environments are the ideal habitats for them, and they are often found in floor drains, behind refrigerators and sinks, and under large appliances. Rooms that are frequently infested are kitchens and bathrooms, because they provide ample hiding places, warmth and a damp environment. These are the first places homeowners should check if they suspect roaches. However, just because these spaces are clear of pests, it doesn't mean a home is free from roaches. The insects are small and able to fit into cracks, so they can sometimes get into walls or behind wallpaper.

Search for bugs
Some homeowners notice they have a roach problem by catching one of the pests out of its hiding place. Even though roaches typically venture out at night, they can sometimes head out to search for food or water during the day. If roaches are seen out and about your home during the day, it can be the sign of a severe infestation. In addition to keeping an eye out for the bugs themselves, it is critical that homeowners search for roach eggs to prevent a new generation from taking over a home. These oval egg cases are sometimes found in tight or cluttered spaces such as bookcases and cabinets.

Look for "coffee grounds"
If an infestation is present in your home, one of the first signs may be what appears to be coffee grounds of black pepper on the floor or other surfaces. This is actually fecal matter from the cockroaches. The amount of it found can be an indicator of how serious an infestation has become.

Pay attention to unusual smells
Some cockroaches give off pheromones that cause an unpleasant odor in a home. Structures with severe roach problems will often have a mysterious musty odor that refuses to go away. If this is the case in your home, check for other signs of roaches and call a pest control expert.

The tell-tale signs of termites

A termite infestation can be a homeowner's worst nightmare. The thought of the pests eating away at your home can send anyone into a panic. Termites need to be treated by a pest control professional as soon as the problem is noticed, or they can cause serious and expensive damage to your house. Noticing a problem early can be tricky, but there are small signs to look out for if you live in an area prone to termite damage. Once an infestation is confirmed, an exterminator can recommend the best form of treatment.

Swarms
Swarms are usually the first thing a homeowner notices when termites invade a home. When termites take flight from their colony to establish a new home, they are often found near windows or in bright areas. Finding a swarm in your home is an indication that a termite colony is nearby – perhaps even in your home.

Tunnels and tubes
Termites build tubes made of mud to travel into a home. These thin tunnels assist them in moving around when they are unable to burrow through a material while looking for food. They can be found in a variety of places, including near the foundation of a home, and in an attic or basement. The exposed tubes can be a good indication your home is at risk of an infestation, if it doesn't already have one.

Bugs
If you're worried about a termite area in a specific location around your home, it is advisable to see if any bugs are visible in the area. Places that are often wet, like around an air conditioner or swimming pool, or spots that have direct soil-to-wood contact, such as decks and fences, should be closely examined. Remove damaged wood or mulch from the area and check for any bugs.

Wings
Some homeowners may find termite wings left behind after the pests swarm. This normal behavior can be a strong sign that an infestation is present. These wings can be found where the termites exit the colony, near windows, or any other areas the termites may try to exit the home.

Damaged wood
A huge indicator of a termite problem is finding damaged wood. Wood that sounds hollow when tapped could be damaged, and should be investigated. If it is visibly rotting, it could be a draw for termites and should be examined and replaced.

Honey, I’m home: Keeping bees out of the house

A South Florida family recently experienced a scare when they realized their home had been invaded by honey bees.

Several thousand bees began to build a new hive inside the home after they were able to enter house through a hole in a wall.

A local bee expert told Miami-area Fox affiliate WSNV that the infestation was "a new swarm of bees." He said the pests likely lived in a hive that became overcrowded, so the swarm left in order to start a new hive elsewhere.

The man told the source that just a day in the house was enough time for the bees to start constructing their new hive. The bee expert told the source that he estimated that in just 24 hours, the insects could build a piece of wax roughly the size of an adult's hand. Since the family had the infestation removed in a timely fashion, there was not a large amount of wax or honey to clean up.

Once a queen bee establishes a new hive, she lays thousands of eggs daily. That means once the eggs begin to hatch, the population of a small beehive can drastically increase in a short period of time.

Because the hive in the Miami-area home had only just been established, the source reports there were only about 3,000 bees inside. Hives that have more time to develop and grow can house tens of thousands of the pests. In some instances, hives can hold up to 60,000 bees.

'Bee'ting the pesky pests
There are several steps homeowners can take to prevent their homes from becoming beehive-friendly. Making sure there are no cracks or holes is important to keep the pests from getting into walls and ceilings. Even if they are not in the home, bees can still bug the family. Getting rid of shelter for the bees will keep them from building a hive on the outside of a home. Empty flower pots, holes in trees, boxes and space in drainage tiles provide plenty of room for bees to begin building a hive. To further prevent the bees from thinking your home is a hospitable place to start their hive, it is advisable to eliminate puddles to prevent the bees from having access to drinking water.

When a homeowner has taken all the necessary steps and a bee infestation still occurs, he or she may want to contact pest control professionals immediately. An insect control company can ensure that the pests are safely removed, especially since a homeowner may anger dangerous Africanized bees when attempting to remove them! An exterminator can also provide input as to the best way to prevent future hives from forming.