May 25, 2020 - Science

CDC warns of "aggressive," hungry rats amid coronavirus restrictions

A rat scavenges for food on the subway platform at Herald Square September 3, 2017 in New York Cit

A rat scavenges on the subway platform at Herald Square in New York City in 2017. Photo: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

The CDC issued a warning on rats after it received reports of "an increase in rodent activity" in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

What they're saying: "Community-wide closures have led to a decrease in food available to rodents, especially in dense commercial areas," the CDC said a statement posted to its website.

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

The big picture: New Orleans stepped up rat control after an uptick on city streets. In Chicago, "hundreds of thousands" of the nocturnal animals are searching much further for food and in daylight hours, the Chicago Tribune reports.

  • From March-April, Washington, D.C., reported almost 500 rodent-related call-outs and Baltimore had 11,000 "proactive" calls and 311 online requests per NBC News
  • Rat expert Bobby Corrigan told the New York Times the rodents are "turning on each other," rather than threatening people.
  • "They are going to war with each other, eating each other’s young in some populations and battling each other for the food they can find," Corrigan said, adding rats in residential blocks have barely been affected by the pandemic.

For the record: The CDC recommends monitoring, controlling and cleaning up after rats.

  • "Preventive actions include sealing up access into homes and businesses, removing debris and heavy vegetation, keeping garbage in tightly covered bins, and removing pet and bird food from their yards," the CDC said.

Go deeper: America's rat renaissance

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