The UK has always been known for its wet winter weather but in recent years, rainfall has become so extreme that flooding has become a big problem for many areas across the country.
Largely thanks to events like Storm Desmond, November 2015 to January 2016 were the wettest three months since UK records began in 1910. As well as damaging homes and having huge financial implications, another issue with flooding is the problem that often ensues of rats.
Why do rats become a problem when there’s flooding?
Rats often move into buildings to escape damage caused by flood waters. It’s more than likely that their usual burrows will have been destroyed, forcing them to find new homes. Rats are strong swimmers and can swim great distances in search of a new home. They can use damaged pipework, plumbing or cracks in masonry to enter properties.
Damaged household goods and other storm debris can become perfect nesting places along with lofts and sheds, so even if you don’t have rodents inside your property, keep an eye out on the area surrounding your premises.
As food sources may also have been destroyed by flooding, rats may come inside looking for food as well as shelter.
Why is a rat infestation a problem?
Many of these rodents carry diseases which can be passed onto people even if we don’t come into direct contact with them. Their urine and droppings contain pathogens which transmit diseases such as Weil’s disease, Rat Bite Fever and Salmonellosis.
During flood conditions rats are more likely to spread disease. David Cross, head of technical training academy at Rentokil warns: “Rats carry a particular health risk in flooded areas, as their urine contains leptospires which survive outside the rats body for much longer periods in extreme wet weather.”
The leptospires within the rats’ urine can cause Leptospirosis (commonly known as Weil’s disease). Hantavirus is another pathogen that can be transmitted from rats and mice to people via food and water contaminated by rodent urine and excrement.
Rodents are also potential sources of allergens. Their droppings, dander and hair can cause people to sneeze, itch and experience other allergic reactions.
Aside from the health implications, the constant gnawing of rats can cause significant damage to property. They can very quickly damage insulation, pipes, doors and floorboards, and they will also shred any soft materials they can find, so they can use it for nesting.
When rats eat through the packaging of household foods, anything that’s left over should be considered contaminated, and inedible. If you have a business that sells or handles food, a rat infestation can have serious implications, not only financial ones but potentially on your reputation as well.
What can you do if you have a rat problem
- Store food in rodent-proof containers or storage jars. If they can’t access food sources, they’re less likely to enter the building and will look elsewhere for food.
- Keep bins as far away from entry points into the building as possible. If you’re limited for space, try to raise bins above floor level, making it harder for rats to access them.
- After storms, clean away any debris that can provide protective cover for rodents as quickly as possible.
- Rodents can fit through surprisingly small gaps so make sure you’ve sealed any areas around water pipes, utility line entry points, vents and doors. They can chew through foam and dried caulk so try to use metal or galvanised wire mesh.
- More rat prevention tips available on the Rentokil website.