One of the most frustrating, and potentially dangerous, situations a home or business owner can face is a rodent infestation. A rodent infestation, and associated rodent droppings, potentially expose people to the prospect of being infected by harmful bacteria or viruses. These bacteria or viruses can result in serious and even fatal diseases. There are some vital facts that you must bear in mind when it comes to rodent infestation and the proper, safe way to undertake rodent droppings cleanup.
Preliminary Tasks in Advance Rodent Droppings Cleanup
There is work to be done in advance of the commencement of the rodent droppings cleanup process itself. Before the cleanup process begins, you must make certain that you’ve fully eliminated rodents from your property. You also need to appropriately fortify your property to ensure that rats or mice (or both) are unable to enter your home or business in the future.
The first step in this process is to seal off any openings in the interior of your residence that permit passage inside by rodents. Bear in mind that a mouse can enter through a space the size of a dime.
You do not want to block off exterior holes at the same time. The objective is to block interior access to your residence with the objective of driving rodents out.
After about a week’s time, you should begin to see and hear no new signs of rodent infestation. If this does not occur, double check to ensure you’ve dealt with all interior rodent passageways and to be certain that no new ones have come into existence.
At this juncture, you seal up exterior openings that have been accessible by rodents in the past. As alluded to a moment ago, you need to address even the smallest openings due to the ability of rodents to squeeze through very small holes.
If evidence suggests that you have a major rodent infestation in your home or business, you will want to give serious consideration to hiring an experienced exterminator. The reality is that undertaking rodent droppings cleanup is a misguided effort until you have thoroughly eradicated rodents from the premises and fortified the perimeter to protect against a future infestation.
Understanding the Dangers of Rodent Droppings
Like many people with a mouse or rat droppings at their home or business, when it comes to clean up you may think: “Grab a broom.” If this is your mindset, you must change it at once. The safe and thorough cleanup of rodent droppings necessitates far more than sweeping mouse and rat feces and urine away.
Rodent droppings can contain hazardous pathogens, bacteria, and viruses that can result in serious and even fatal diseases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention enumerates examples of bacteria and viruses that can be spread via contact with rat droppings:
- Rat bite fever
Rodent droppings potentially become more dangerous once they dry out. Certain viruses and bacteria remain alive or viable for a period of time within rodent droppings, including after mouse and rat feces dry out.
Rodent droppings crumble readily once dried out. This particularly is the case with rat droppings. When rodent droppings dry out and crumble, dust is created, part of which becomes airborne. If droppings contain a virus or bacterium, this type of pathogen becomes airborne as well.
In the absence of proper protection, contaminated dust is breathed in. When inhaled, a person can become infected by a virus or bacterium. The resulting negative health consequences can prove severe or even fatal (as is illustrated in a moment).
Hantavirus was first recognized in the United States in 1993. The virus can be spread through rodent droppings, including dust from dried feces and urine. More than 30 percent of individuals who end up infected with hantavirus will die. These unfortunate people actually die from a condition known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome causes capillaries in the lungs to hemorrhage. This results in a person’s lungs filling with blood. There is no vaccination or specific treatment for the syndrome. Rather, an effort is made to minimize the symptoms by placing a person with the syndrome in the ICU and on mechanical ventilation utilizing a breathing tube. In about 60 percent of cases, a patient spontaneously recovers from the syndrome.
Leptospirosis can result in a variety of symptoms that can be confused with other illnesses, including the flu. In some cases, a person is asymptomatic after infection. With medical treatment, the prognosis for full recovery is strong. In a limited number of situations where no treatment is obtained, serious complications can occur that include:
- Kidney damage
- Liver failure
- Respiratory distress
- Death (very rare)
More commonly referred to as “food poisoning,” salmonella occurs when the bacterium ends up contaminating a food item that is consumed. Rodent droppings and urine can carry this bacterium.
In the vast majority of cases, a person becomes unpleasantly ill when infected with salmonella. This includes suffering from nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Salmonella is rarely fatal and resolves with or without medical intervention.
Rat Bite Fever
As the name indicates, rat bite fever is spread by rat (and mice) bites. The bacteria (two potential kinds) that can cause rat bite fever can also be spread through rodent droppings and urine. Rat-bite fever is rarely fatal. Indeed, in many cases, the symptoms, including fever, are not significant. The bacterial infection can be treated. If not treated, in most cases it ends up resolving nonetheless.
Who Is Responsible for Cleaning up Rodent Droppings in a Rental Unit?
If you rent your home or business premises in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside or Ventura counties, you may wonder who bears responsibility for rodent droppings cleanup in a leased unit. In brief, in all of these California counties, there are situations in which the landlord bears responsibility for cleanup and there are circumstances when the duty rests on the shoulders of the tenant.
In California, an implied warranty of habitability exists in a residential rental situation. What this means is that a landlord must ensure that a rented residence is in a livable condition.
A pest infestation, including a rodent infestation (and associated droppings), represents a situation in which warranty of habitability may be violated. For example, if rodents enter into the premises through no fault of the tenant, the landlord is responsible for remediating the situation. This includes bearing the costs associated with eliminating the rodents from the property as well as for rodent droppings cleanup.
If a mouse or rat infestation can be connected to the conduct of the tenant, the tenant bears the financial burden to remedy the situation. For example, if the tenant doesn’t properly clean the premises, attracting mice or rats, the tenant is responsible for addressing the issue from a financial standpoint. This means that the tenant foots the bill for eliminating the rodents and for cleaning up rodent droppings as well.
In many cases, in order to protect the property, a landlord will make arrangements for professionals to eradicate the rodent infestation and to the cleanup of droppings. (Typically, these will be two different specialists.) The landlord can lawfully hold the tenant responsible for reimbursing the costs associated with this professional assistance.
If you are a tenant and have an issue with rodents and rodent droppings in your home or business, you need to advise your landlord in writing of the situation. You need to state that the rodent infestation and presence of rat droppings must be remediated or dealt with immediately.
Do not merely make a phone call or otherwise verbally make a request for action regarding rodent infestation and rodent droppings cleanup. You need to make sure that you maintain a verifiable record of communications with your landlord regarding these issues.
Comprehensive Rodent Droppings Cleanup Is a Must
If your residence is or was infested by mice or rats, you must have a comprehensive cleanup of the premises. The reality is that rodents can occupy a myriad of spaces in your residence (or business), including the attic, basement, crawlspace, air ducts, space between walls, and other locations.
Because of the fact that rodent droppings literally can end up almost anywhere in your home, the cleanup process must be designed to reach all of these spaces. The reality is that even with your best intentions, you may lack the ability to effectively reach all areas in your residence (or business) in which rodent feces and urine might be found. This serves to underscore the necessity for engaging the professional services of a rodent droppings cleanup specialist. There are other reasons why professional remediation is recommended, which are discussed in a moment.
Safety and Rat Droppings Cleanup
As has been noted, the health consequences associated with exposure to dried rodent droppings can be severe (even fatal). Thus, safety is a paramount concern when it comes to rodent droppings cleanup. The CDC has determined the specific personal protective equipment that must be utilized for rodent droppings cleanup:
- Smock or apron
- Shoe covering
- Head covering
The respirator represents a particularly important item that is a must when cleaning up rodent droppings. A mask is not enough – although people many times make the mistake of concluding that a mask provides adequate protection against the inhalation of contaminated rodent droppings.
Respirators are defined as:
There are two main categories: the air-purifying respirator which forces contaminated air through a filtering element, and the air-supplied respirator in which an alternate supply of fresh air is delivered. Within each category, different techniques are employed to reduce or eliminate noxious airborne contaminants. Respirators range from relatively inexpensive single-use, disposable face masks to more robust reusable models with replaceable cartridges.
If at all possible, all other personal protective equipment items should be disposable. This is the best way of ensuring that rodent droppings and urine contamination are not spread. In addition, personal protective equipment should not be removed and then used again. That process can result in a person contaminating his or herself with harmful pathogens contained in rodent droppings dust and debris found on personal protective equipment as a result of the cleanup process.
The Four Steps of Professional Rodent Droppings Remediation
A professional rodent droppings specialist will undertake four stages to remediate a rodent droppings situation. First, the actual cleanup of rodent feces and urine is undertaken. This is followed by the sanitization of the areas which was contaminated by rodent droppings and urine.
Deodorization is the third phase of the rodent droppings remediation process. The stench of rodent urine can be particularly difficult to combat. Professional remediation specialists have access to commercial grade deodorization products that can eliminate the foul smell of rodent urine.
The last stage in addressing rodent droppings is returning a residence to a fully habitable condition. This means that the premises are safe and free from any malingering odor associated with a rodent infestation.