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Hantavirus: Keeping Rodent Numbers Down

Topic Overview

Reducing rodent numbers indoors

To prevent rodents from nesting in your house:

  • Wash your dishes and cooking items immediately after you use them, and clean up any food that spills on the floor. Also, don't leave food out on the countertops.
  • If you have a pet, keep its food and water covered. Store your pet's food in rodent-proof metal or thick plastic containers with tight-fitting lids.
  • If you suspect a rodent infestation, use spring-loaded rodent traps in your home as much as possible. Put the traps near baseboards and against the wall where rodents tend to run.
  • In addition to traps, use an EPA-approved poison rodent bait (rodenticide) under a plywood or plastic shelter along your baseboards. Be careful when you get rid of dead rodents in the traps, because there may be droppings in and around the traps.

To prevent rodents from getting inside your house:

  • Use steel wool or cement to cover all openings in your house that are larger than 0.25 in. (0.6 cm).
  • Place metal flashing around the base of a wooden, earthen, or adobe house. This will help form a barrier that rodents cannot penetrate. Place the flashing at least 12 in. (30.5 cm) high and buried at least 6 in. (15.2 cm) deep.
  • Place 3 in. (7.6 cm) of gravel under the base of your house or mobile home so rodents cannot burrow under your house.

Reducing rodent numbers outdoors

There are many ways to reduce or eliminate rodents around your house by eliminating places rodents like to nest. Try the following:

  • Dispose of trash and other junk. Put your garbage in rodent-proof or thick plastic containers that have tight-fitting lids.
  • Store hay, woodpiles, and garbage cans on elevated platforms, and store them at least 100 ft (30.5 m) away from your house, if possible.
  • Remove grass, brush, and dense shrubbery around your house.
  • Clean up seed from the ground below bird feeders, and store bird seed in rodent-proof containers.

Disposing of dead rodents

  • Wear gloves when you handle dead rodents, their droppings, or nesting materials. If you are in an enclosed place, you may also want to wear goggles and a respirator with a filter to avoid breathing contaminated dust.
  • Do not stir up dust by sweeping up or vacuuming up droppings, urine, or nesting materials.
  • Spray dead rodents, their nests, and droppings with a household disinfectant, such as Lysol, or a freshly made dilute bleach solution. You can make a bleach solution by adding 1 part bleach to 10 parts water [for example, add 1 cup (237 mL) bleach to 10 cups (2.4 L) of water]. Place dead rodents in plastic bags. Clean up droppings or nest materials with paper towels or rags and place them in plastic bags. Seal each bag before throwing it away in the garbage.
  • If you use a spring-loaded snap trap, you can clean an empty trap by pouring very hot water on it.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert L. Cowie, MB, FCP(SA), MD, MSc, MFOM - Pulmonology
Last Revised February 22, 2012

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