Rats and Mice as Vectors of Diseases

mouse The word “rodent” is derived from the Latin verb rodere, meaning “to gnaw”, and rats in particular are infamous for their ability to chew through insulation and wiring in your home. With sensitive whiskers and guard hairs, rats are perceptive to touch, which is why you’ll often spot them running along walls and in between objects. Even though rats are known to have poor eyesight, their sense of smell and taste are quite sharp and these traits serve them well in foraging for food in the cover of night. Probably the least aesthetically pleasing of the rodent family, rats have a notorious reputation for their ability to destroy properties, by gnawing at structure bases and wiring, which can cause fires.

In comparison, mice are the smaller of the two but are also capable of gnawing at structures, especially those made of wood. Both rodents and mice compete with us for food sources and can wreak havoc on agriculture and stores of food.

Perhaps the worst offence is their ability to ‘vector’ diseases, fueled by their habits of using our waste and sewage coupled with their characteristically mobile nature. According to The Center for Disease Control, both rats and mice are responsible for the transmission of over 35 diseases worldwide. Whether you live in a crowded, urban area or a more rural space, rats and mice do not discriminate based on environment and can be successful in any habitat. Their close proximity to where we eat, live and go about our daily lives, can be disconcerting as there are many dangerous rodent- associated diseases that can affect humans such as: Hantavirus, rat-bite fever, plague, murine typhus, leptospirosis, lyme disease, swine dysentery and salmonella. Through their fur, saliva, urine and droppings, rats and mice can transfer diseases from contaminated areas and accelerate the spread of these diseases at a rapid rate.

What is a Vector?

According to the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), vectors are living organisms that can transmit infectious diseases between humans or from animals to humans. More commonly known vectors are fleas, mosquitoes and rats with the W.H.O. citing over 1 billion cases and over 1 million deaths from vector-borne diseases each year. In fact, vector-borne diseases account for over 17% of all infectious diseases today.

Diseases spread by rodents

Referred to as the “Black Death” the bubonic plague is one of the most widely known rodent vectored diseases, responsible for the majority of deaths during the Medieval era in Europe. Today, plague still kills many people all over the world, but other diseases have developed that can have far greater impact especially in countries that lack resource to combat this problem.

Some diseases that are directly or indirectly spread by rodents are:

  • Lassa Fever
  • Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome
  • Leptospirosis
  • Plague
  • Rat-bite fever
  • Salmonellosis
  • South American Arenavirus
  • Tularemia
  • Colorado Tick fever
  • Rickettsialpox
  • Babesiosis

Types of Rats & Mice: Ratatouille anyone?

The most common types of rats that come into close contact with humans are the Norway rats and Roof rats.

norway_rat Norway rats or brown rats are larger than roof rats and tend to burrow themselves under trash or lower levels of buildings. They are sometimes called sewer rats with short tails and small ears and eyes and will often build their nests out of cloth, shredded paper or fibrous material. They are extremely common in densely populated areas.

Roof rats or black rats are often found in coastal areas. Due to their superior climbing skills, they make their nests above ground in shrubs and trees. This also means that they are able to enter your home through trees that are close to windows, and can often be found in elevated areas such as walls, cabinets and attics.

Rats are excellent swimmers and can leap as high as 3 or 4 feet. Feasting on a variety of both plant and animal foods, rats need constant access to water. Signs of rats in your home can be easily identified by small holes in door frames or wooden baseboards, small burrows outside your home, as well as the presence of ½ inch droppings throughout the house.

Move over Mickey!

mice When we think of mice, we’re often not as grossed out by their presence as we are with their more fearsome counterpart the rat. However, mice are just as responsible for an unhealthy living environment and should not be undermined as a serious issue.

For homeowners, there are a few more common species of mice that can cause problems including the native mouse (such as the deer and white-footed), as well as the house mouse. As with rats, mice eat both plant and animal foods, but also prefer seeds and grains. They are not as dependent on a constant water source as with rats, often relying on the moisture from food to sustain them.

House mice can often be found in small spaces behind walls or appliances. In the winter months, the native mice will be sure to seek shelter indoors to escape the cold.

Even if you are not aware of the presence of mice and rats in your home, there are many unseen ways that these rodents can transmit their diseases:

  • In the case of Hantaviruses, people can become infected if the rodent dropping or urine contains a Hantavirus which may infiltrate dust that can be breathed in by humans.
  • Eating or drinking food or water that is contaminated with rat feces.
  • Direct contact with live or dead rats that are infected.
  • In rare cases, rats directly biting a human.
  • Bites from fleas or mites that are found on rats.

How to prevent a rodent infestation

The best method for preventing a rodent infestation is to eliminate the food sources that attract rodents and keep them out of the home by using an exclusion method of pest control. As a preventative measure, there are steps you can to help prevent an infestation:

  • Store food in airtight containers and avoid keeping food out on countertops overnight.
  • Pet food should not be kept outside, and if stored in pantries or basements, should also be sealed in airtight containers.
  • Keep indoor trash in lidded bins wherever possible.
  • Since mice in particular are drawn to nesting areas, avoid keeping piles of boxes, papers or clothes. This is applicable to the outside of your home where rats are more likely to make their way to piles of items and trash that may be left unattended.
  • Any entryway into the home should be checked to make sure that there are no openings for rats and mice to get through. If there are holes in floors, doors or walls, a combination of wire mesh and foam sealants can be used.

If you do have a rodent problem that seems overwhelming, it is important to contact your local Truly Nolen service experts to identify areas where these rodents are possibly entering your home. The Exclusion Method of rodent control is one of the most effective ways for your service expert to ensure that mice and rats cannot enter your home in any way. The application of this method can aid in solving the problem at its source, so that any remaining rodents on the interior of the home can be eliminated.

Oh Baby it’s Cold Outside! (Rats and Mice Think So Too)

Rat ControlAfter spending the day outside in the cold weather, there’s nothing more welcoming than stepping into a warm, cozy house. The problem is you’re not the only ones trying to escape the realities of the winter months with unpredictable drops in temperature, biting winds and sometimes, snow. As we enter into the cooler part of the year, rodents are particularly keen on finding warm areas to settle into. Attics and basements make the coziest retreats for rats and mice that are extremely capable of finding sneaky ways to enter your home, even through the smallest of openings. According to the Department of Health, if rodents can be controlled in the winter months when their breeding levels are already low, there will be fewer of them that survive when their annual breeding cycle begins in spring. In turn, this helps to decrease the overall population throughout the year.

Since natural food sources such as insects and seeds are difficult to come by during winter, rodents will be attracted to food and water that you leave lying around. It’s important to take advantage of this seasonal change by making it difficult for rodents to stake their claim on your territory.

Transmission of Diseases

Besides dealing with the obvious unpleasantness of having mice and rats in your home, there are dangerous health concerns not to be overlooked. The reputation of rodents as carriers of diseases far precedes them in any part of the world. The mere mention or sighting of a rat in an eating establishment for example, is enough to make patrons nauseated and restaurant owners nervous at the prospect of being shut down.

Rodents can transmit diseases by directly biting people or from someone ingesting food or water contaminated by infected rodent feces or urine. Breathing in dust that is contaminated, or coming into contact with mites and rat fleas can also result in the transmission of diseases such as Rat-Bite Fever, Salmonellosis, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, Tapeworms and Murine Typhus.

Rodents eat what?

So just because you haven’t actually seen a rat or mouse in your home does not mean they aren’t there. If you know what to look out for, you can identify a rodent problem before it gets out of hand:

  • Rodent droppings- black in color and capsule shaped, you may notice these around food and water sources in your home or in attic or basement corners.
  • With the need to constantly wear their teeth down, rodents will gnaw on wiring, pvc pipes, ducts, plumbing and chew their way through the insulation like cotton candy. Chewing through electrical wiring can be quite problematic as this can lead to attic fires that can spread throughout the home.
  • You may hear a “scratching” sound coming from your roof. This is in fact the chewing noise that rodents make as they are having a field day with that insulation in your attic!
  • Plumbing or wiring inspections may reveal a rodent problem if it is brought to your attention that wires have been chewed through.

Keeping rodents at bay

Making your home as unappealing to rodents as possible is the best way to help control a potentially hazardous situation. Remember to:

  • Store garbage inside heavy plastic or metal cans that can be closed with a lid. It’s a good idea to wait until the morning of your trash pick up to take the bin outside instead of giving rodents the opportunity to scrimmage throughout the night.
  • Keep your yard free of weeds and debris to avoid giving rodents a tempting place to hide. Avoid letting boxes or crates pile up.
  • Tightly seal and store away all food. Don’t forget the pet food!
  • Install screens on windows and sliding doors, routinely checking for holes. Door sweeps are also a good idea to block entries.
  • Seek professional pest control help if a rodent problem becomes overwhelming.

Truly Nolen’s Exclusion & Trapping Method- Rodents don’t stand a chance.

You’ve taken all the above steps to ensure that rodents do not find your home enticing, but as a final measure, calling in your Truly Nolen expert to perform an Exclusion & Trapping service is one of the most effective solutions to keep your home completely rodent free.

By “rodent proofing” your home, the exclusionary phase of this program involves your expert diligently sourcing and filling any holes, crevices or gaps that are ¼ inch or larger. Rats and mice have extremely soft bone cartilage, making it easy for them to fit through small openings. This phase of the service is complimented by an ongoing monitoring program so that the initial work performed is maintained leaving no room for error (or rats!)

Once the rodents have no way into the home, the next phase involves trapping and elimination of rats and mice that are inside. This is also an on-going process (several days to weeks) to make sure that any rodents that already exist inside the structure are trapped and removed. As one of the most effective solutions of rodent control, the Truly Nolen Exclusion method is proven to be a safe way to completely eradicate rodents from your home, only leaving behind the peace of mind that your family deserves.

Key Largo Bridge Run

The bridge run is done every year and this was the first year we joined and plan to join from now on. Every year they pick a different non-profit organization to help, as well as helping the less fortunate kids in the keys. This year part of the proceeds went to children with autism. I was so happy to know that every member of my team was ready and willing to be part of this event. At the end we had a wonderful time.

Why Roach Allergies are So Scary

roachIf the idea of ghouls and ghosts is not scary enough for you this Halloween, there’s a common household pest that’s turning up the scare factor all year round. With millions of people suffering from allergy symptoms, roach allergies are not often top of mind when compared to the more common “triggers” such as dust mites or pollen. A stubborn indoor allergen (a substance that causes an allergic reaction), roaches are difficult to get rid of entirely, even in the cleanliest home. Not just a residential problem, roaches can find their way into offices, restaurants, and in some of the more dangerous cases, schools. If left untreated, they can cause long term health problems and exacerbate already existing conditions such as asthma, the third leading cause of hospitalization among children under the age of 15. Although emphasis should be placed on treating and eliminating live roaches, it is also important to pay close attention to the removal of dead roaches. Over time, the deterioration of their cast skins can create allergens.

For individuals already suffering with respiratory ailments or weak immune systems, or in the case of the elderly or very young, an undetected roach infestation may lead to the development of chronic allergies.

Snapshot- Roach Allergen case study

A good example that showcases just how damaging a roach infestation can be to one’s health is in a recent case where a Truly Nolen service expert was able to perform a service that would ultimately reverse the negative effects taking place on a homeowner. Unknown to her, a severe roach problem was the main contributing factor in her steady decline in health. An initial visit to the customer’s home was able to reveal the full extent of this infestation. Plagued with chronic fatigue, respiratory problems and emotional distress, the homeowner suffered greatly. Even at the time of service, she was unable to physically move around and directed the service expert while seated on her couch.

The treatments were performed in various parts of the house, with extra attention paid to areas where roach carcasses existed. The Truly Nolen service expert was genuinely concerned for this woman’s health issues, and went above and beyond to make sure that the current infestation was dealt with properly, and that the cast skins were thoroughly removed. After eliminating the roaches from the home, the service expert saw a dramatic improvement several months later on his follow up service with the homeowner. Not only was her chronic tiredness gone, but so were her respiratory problems. Unlike the first visit where she could barely move, the follow up visit revealed a new person whose physical and emotional health was getting better day by day. The health and well-being of your home can never be taken for granted as it can have a great impact on your life.

Since the allergens left behind by roaches can become airborne and contaminate multiple areas, roaches do not even need to be present to wreak havoc on the daily health and well-being of those living in affected surroundings. In the case of the homeowner, roach carcasses found in her home were a major contributing factor in the decline of her health. These dangerous scavengers are vehicles of bacteria, contaminants, and sometimes diseases that are found in their saliva, feces and on their bodies.

The allergens produced by roaches have been shown to cause health concerns, ranging from mild to more severe including:

  • Asthma (mild onset to severe complications)
  • Dermatitis
  • Skin rashes
  • Itching
  • Digestive problems
  • Food poisoning
  • Severe respiratory conditions
  • Intestinal diseases

The most common symptoms of a roach allergy are: wheezing, coughing, skin rashes and shortness of breath. Although these symptoms can be associated with many different ailments, it is important not to discount roach allergens as a potential culprit. As a cautionary measure, seeking professional medical advice is always the safest option in determining the root cause of your allergies.

RoachesAttracted to dark, damp areas, roaches gravitate to places that are more prone to moisture, such as pipes and faucets found under your sink. Since roaches tend to live in groups, even if you have only seen one or two, chances are there are many more hiding behind the scenes. If you suspect a roach allergy may be to blame for certain health issues, it’s always a good idea to take a few extra steps in safeguarding your space against these stubborn insects:

  1. When entering your home with boxes or bags, always double check to make sure they are roach free before resting them inside.
  2. Keep food containers tightly sealed and away from countertops and avoid leaving spilled food unattended.
  3. Fix and seal any leaking pipes and faucets.
  4. Use lidded garbage containers wherever possible.
  5. Have your space professionally treated to address more serious roach issues.
  6. Visit your doctor if your symptoms become severe.

For more information on allergies, as well as resources for helping to cope with asthma, visit:

The Kudzu Bug- A Stinky Situation

The Kudzu Bug- A Stinky Situation

Small, brown and ready to pack a punch with its foul smell, the kudzu bug may seem harmless enough, but this little stinker is becoming quite the nuisance. First making its appearance in Georgia back in 2009, these little guys are thought to have migrated to the United States as early as 1998. Fast forward to today, these bugs are increasing in number and making their unwelcomed presence felt both on the exterior and interiors of homes, gardens, cars and more.

While kudzu bugs started off in just a handful of counties, they have now found their way to over 143 counties in Georgia, as well as in other neighboring southern states and even as far up as Virginia.

You’ve probably already encountered several of these insects while stepping out of your front door, and if you’ve had the misfortune to step on one, you’ll know that the liquid they secrete can smell quite terrible. So, what exactly are these kudzu bugs and how can we get rid of them?

Kudzu Anyone?

A long way from home, the origins of this bug trace back to India and China. Known in the scientific community as Megacopta cribraria, the kudzu bug has a voracious appetite for soybeans and has been known to feed aggressively on the kudzu and wisteria trees found all over Georgia.
Similar in appearance to a beetle, the adult kudzu is often light brown with an olive green tone and about ¼ inch long, with the younger insects having a more “hairy” skin. Where these little guys will really get you is by emitting a foul liquid when directly handled or squished. This can even cause staining and for some more sensitive individuals, blistering and discomfort.

Bad Habits are Hard to Break

In an effort to stay sheltered, the kudzu bug has a natural tendency to gravitate toward cracks and crevices on trees and shrubs. Unfortunately, the cracks and crevices around your home also provide refuge from the environment, which is why you’ll notice these insects around doorframes and windows. With the weather already cooling down, they will be seeking shelter in the warmer areas and are particularly drawn to light colors on houses or even clothing!

Kudzu bugs also have a habit of staying somewhat dormant during the winter months, only to become active again in spring where they will be searching for new vegetation to eat. Besides being a residential nuisance, the recent infestation of kudzu bugs can pose a real threat to untreated crops, especially soybeans. This is concerning to farmers who estimate that losses could surmount to as high as 50%, having an adverse effect on future crops.

No Kudzu Bugs Allowed!

While the thought of getting close to these insects is less than appealing, there are certain control measures you can take to help keep them as far away as possible. Always avoid crushing these bugs as they will leave stains and release the noxious odor that has made them infamous!

Some natural ways to get rid of them are:

  • Seal any cracks on the exterior of the home near windows and doors. A good idea is to also make sure that the screens on your doors and windows are free from holes. Keeping them out is key!
  • Keep your broom handy to sweep them out immediately. Another option is the use of a shop vacuum. If your vacuum uses water, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of dish soap helps to kill the bugs on contact. With regular vacuums, it is advisable to discard the vacuum bag right after.
  • Try to remove kudzu patches and wisteria trees adjacent to your home, especially in the fall.

If you choose to use chemicals to help control them, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • When spraying trees and vegetation, be sure to check that the insecticide is plant friendly.
  • During the fall, spray during the morning time as the bugs tend to be active throughout the day. This will give the chemical time to work properly.
  • When spraying indoors, be sure to remove the dead insects immediately, so they do not attract other pests that may feed on them.
  • If you feel that the infestation of kudzu bugs is increasingly high and invasive, consider contacting a Truly Nolen pest control professional to help take care of the problem.