CDC Warns of 'Aggressive' Rats, Possible Population Boom Amid Pandemic


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned of an increase in rodent activity and “unusual rodent behavior” as shutdown orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic have limited some of the animals’ food supply.

The city-dwelling rodents rely on restaurant waste and street garbage as a food source, but with over two months of lockdowns in many large cities, they’ve had to resort to eating their young, The Guardian reported.

“Some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity as rodents search for new sources of food,” the CDC said.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been reports of rat cannibalism and rat infanticide in New York, according to The Washington Post.

“Many of these rats in our cities depend on their nightly food, which is the restaurants and hotels and bars and doughnut shops and everything that we consume on the go,” urban rodentologist Bobby Corrigan said.

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Chicago residents also reported an increase in rat infestations in residential areas, The Guardian reported.

People in New Orleans described witnessing rats scurrying through empty streets in March.

“I turn the corner, there’s about 30 rats at the corner, feasting on something in the middle of the street,” Charles Marsala of New Orleans Insider Tours told CBS News.

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Claudia Regal, head of the local pest control board, said it was a “difficult time to be a rat” but expressed concern about possible infections the rat infestation could spread.

“There are pathogens in these rodents. Fortunately, we don’t see many of the health outcomes,” Regal said.

“We don’t have very many disease cases that are actually related to rodents, but the potential is there,” she said.

Rats also pose a threat to cars — gnawing at car engines and tires, according to The Post.

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The CDC said that the best thing to do is “eliminate conditions that may attract and support rodent presence.”

“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.

Corrigan added, “Deny them the opportunity, and you’ll never even know they’ve visited your property.”

The rat-to-human ratio in a city is usually hard to gauge, but a 1950s survey reported about four humans to one rat in New York, The Guardian reported.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith