(BPT) - With the holidays over for another year, you may think you won’t have any more surprise guests until spring. Think again. Nearly a third (29 percent) of Americans have had a “visit” from one of winter’s least-welcome “guests” – rodents – according to a survey from the National Pest Management Association. In fact, these pests enter approximately 21 million homes each winter, and nearly half of the infestations occur in the fall and winter months.
“It can be extremely unnerving to hear scurrying sounds in the middle of the night or find evidence of a rodent infestation in the pantry or another part of the home, “ says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. “We advise all homeowners to take the necessary steps to rodent-proof their homes and prevent these unwanted pests from using homes as shelter to ride out the chilly winter months.”
Rodents spread Salmonella and other bacteria through their droppings, can trigger allergies and asthma attacks as a result of a protein in their urine, and bring with them other diseases such as murine typhus, infectious jaundice, Weil’s Disease and rat-bite fever. In addition to the health and sanitation concerns, rodents can also damage property as they chew through wood and drywall. They can even gnaw through electrical wires, causing fires.
NPMA’s rodent survey found:
* Rats or mice are a problem in 29 percent of homes, including 35 percent of those in the Northeast;30 percent in the South;22 percent in the Midwest; and 28 percent in the West.
* Of those who have had a problem, 45 percent said it occurred in the fall and winter months.
* Rodents showed up most often in kitchens (50 percent), basements (27 percent), living rooms (25 percent), attics and garages (24 percent), bedrooms (22 percent) and bathrooms (11 percent).
To combat rodent infestations this season, NPMA recommends five home maintenance tips:
* Inspect the outside of your home for easy access points. Seal any cracks and crevices with silicone caulk, paying special attention to areas where utility pipes enter the structure. Remember, mice can enter homes through holes the size of a dime and rats through holes the size of a quarter.
* Fill larger gaps inside your home with pieces of steel wool, as the roughness of the steel fibers deters pests. This works especially well with rodents because they are unable to gnaw through the material.
* Screen attic vents and openings to chimneys, which could serve as potential entryways.
* Replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around the basement’s foundation and windows.
Properly landscape around the home to avoid providing sites where pets can hide. Keep shrubbery trimmed and ensure mulch is kept at least 15 inches from the foundation.
For more information on pest control, visit www.pestworld.org.