During the coronavirus crisis, governments around the world have ordered the shutdown of non-critical businesses and services to reduce the transmission of the virus to protect the population. Other buildings that are classed under essential services may have reduced staff as only essential workers are regularly on site. For infection control, businesses may also restrict staff of external contractors from accessing their premises.
This has left many buildings lying empty or with much reduced human presence, resulting in greater risk of pest and maintenance problems. If pest control technicians can’t access a site, there’s a risk of infestations occurring and pest numbers multiplying in an uncontrolled manner.
Buildings in multiple sectors are affected, including commercial, hotels and restaurants, education, industrial and residential, where homeowners will be reluctant to allow people in to protect themselves from infection. With no or few people and little activity, these buildings have become a perfect habitat for many types of pest. An additional problem is that if a building is left empty for a long period the insurance policy may not provide cover.
When food’s also nearby, pest numbers can grow rapidly, which can result in:
Pest infestations cost businesses an estimated £11.8 billion across five countries, according to a Rentokil commissioned survey. Over a quarter of businesses reported damage to electrical equipment during a rat infestation and 15% of businesses reported loss of revenue due to customer trust following an infestation.
Rats and mice are capable of an exponential increase in population when there’s an abundant food supply. They produce multiple litters in a year and several generations of young mature and produce their own young within a year. In addition, the shelter from predators and benign environmental conditions inside a building produce a higher survival rate than in the wild.
During the pandemic many food businesses such as restaurants and cafés have been shut down, resulting in local rat populations suddenly having their regular food supplies disappearing. This can lead to starvation, which drives them to leave their normal territory to look for new food supplies. Rats even change their normally nocturnal habits to find food during daytime – this unusual behaviour has already been reported in New Orleans.
These starving rats are an increased risk to nearby buildings where food’s still present, including, hospitals, care homes, food retail stores, food stores and warehouses, and homes. Food waste bins that have not been emptied will also attract rats.
Risks from rodents
The hazards from rats and mice include the following.
Cockroaches are the most common type of crawling insect that infests food-handling businesses. They cause particular problems because of their small size, giving them the ability to hide in small places, their varied diet, rapid reproduction and the diseases they can carry.
Cockroaches shelter in dark places such as cracks, crevices, drains, sewers, inside equipment and furnishings and hidden spaces that provide the right temperature and humidity. These places are also hard to reach using basic cleaning and sanitation methods.
Risks from cockroaches
Diseases and allergens: cockroaches can carry a large number of disease-causing bacteria, including Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Listeria, E. coli, and also fungi, viruses and parasitic worms.
A number of fly species can be pests around buildings, breeding in decaying organic matter such as food waste, droppings, dead animals and drains. These species include fruit flies, drain flies, house flies and bluebottles. Buildings also provide sites for some species to overwinter. Different fly species are attracted to different food products, including fermenting sugars, oils and fats, carbohydrates, and decaying proteins and vegetable matter.
Risks from flies
In warm conditions and with food supplies, flies can multiply quickly. They feed on faecal matter, rubbish, rotting materials and stored and processed foods. They will regularly move between the contaminated food sources and clean areas, carrying contaminated filth on their bodies and microorganisms internally.
Flies can pick up contaminated materials on their bodies, feet and mouth parts. Some regurgitate digestive juices and defecate while feeding and resting, contaminating foods and surfaces with microorganisms that can cause disease or decay. Fruit flies can also carry spoilage microorganisms and diseases.
Flies can carry many microorganisms that cause disease in humans, including Salmonella, cholera, Campylobacter spp, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, parasitic worms and fungi.
A few species of birds are able to thrive in urban areas. They’re adapted to the nesting and roosting sites in the ledges, sills, roofs and gutters of buildings and the ready sources of food provided by human food supply activities in the vicinity. They can exploit gaps in the roof, walls, and open or broken doors and windows for entry and take shelter in spaces such as under roofs. The most common bird pests are pigeons, house sparrows, seagulls and starlings.
Risks from birds
Birds can cause the following type of damage.
It’s essential to continue maintaining buildings and pest control services to prevent pests accessing buildings and to prevent infestations becoming a greater financial risk. Pest infestations also lead to reputational damage and may delay the return of a building to normal use when the coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted.
A professional pest control service can provide an integrated pest-management plan that controls pests efficiently and discreetly to protect the building, stock, equipment and provides a safe place for staff.
Rentokil’s disinfection solutions can help businesses deal with the effects of coronavirus.