CDC Warns of 'Increase in Rodent Activity' at Restaurants and Food Venues Closed By COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdowns

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that rodents might become more aggressive because their food supply has been hit hard by the closure of food outlets due to the coronavirus.

Reliant on the food and waste generated by restaurants and cafes, rodents are now having to make do with slimmer pickings, and have become more competitive as a result.

In March, a viral video showed a crowd of rats racing for food in the streets of New Orleans. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., there were around 500 calls about rodents in the 30 days before April 13, and in Baltimore, around 11,000 calls, according to NBC News.

The CDC said that the rise in rodent activity was particularly pronounced in dense commercial areas and has issued a statement that "community-wide closures have led to a decrease in food available to rodents."

A rat climbs on a bench on the High Line Park in New York City in this illustrative image taken in 2018. The CDC has warned of a spoke in rodent activity due to the closure of food outlets during the coronavirus. Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Environmental health and rodent control programs "may see an increase in service requests related to rodents and reports of unusual or aggressive rodent behavior," it added.

Bobby Corrigan, an urban rodentologist, said that faced with a disappearing nutritional source, rats may move into other colonies to fight for food and even turn on each other.

"They're mammals just like you and I, and so when you're really, really hungry, you're not going to act the same—you're going to act very bad, usually," Corrigan told NBC. "So these rats are fighting with one another, now the adults are killing the young in the nest and cannibalizing the pups."

Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist at the National Pest Management Association, told The Washington Post that the rats can carry foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and their urine can also worsen allergies and asthma.

Meanwhile Chelsea Gridley-Smith, director of environmental health at the National Association of County and City Health Officials told The Post that with many local health departments focused on COVID-19, there is a lack of resources to curb the spread of rats.

There is normally a decrease in rodent activity after natural disasters like hurricanes, which is then followed by a spike as businesses reopen.

The CDC recommended residents and businesses to ensure debris and heavy vegetation was removed, garbage can lids were tightly on and pet and bird food was removed from yards.

"Rodent bait stations may become a more attractive food source for rodents, so stations may need to be serviced more often. It is important to monitor rodent activity during this time and develop indicators to help inform rodent control strategies," the CDC said.

The infographic below, provided by Statista, shows the U.S. states with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases across the U.S. as of May 22.

The U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases.
The U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases. STATISTA