Experimental Evaluation of Rodent Exclusion Methods to Reduce Hantavirus Transmission to Humans in Rural Housing

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  • Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, National Park Service, Special Pathogens and Viral and Rickettsial Zoonoses Branches, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Baltimore, Maryland, Georgia

An experimental assessment of methods to reduce rodent infestations in rural housing was conducted in Yosemite National Park, California, Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. California, and Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. During pretreatment surveys, nearly all (63 of 68) selected units had past or ongoing rodent activity inside. Active infestations were found in 58.8% of the units. Peromyscus spp. represented 91.2% of all animals caught inside housing units. Despite little harborage, rodent activity was common near housing (290 animals/2,254 trap nights). The most common species present was Peromyscus maniculatus (43–50% of all captures). This species was especially frequent (49–87% of Peromyscus captures) around the foundations of housing units. Habitat had little effect on captures. There were 1.8 Peromyscus caught per unit along the foundations of housing in modified rural settings with grass lawns compared with 1.2 Peromyscus caught per unit in sites located in mature woodlands. During autumn of 1994, randomly selected housing units were rodent proofed by sealing openings associated with chases, roof eaves, and attics with insulation and wire mesh. Housing was examined and the fauna was resampled in the spring-summer of 1995. Rodent-proofed houses were infested significantly less often (3 of 28) than control houses (13 of 36) (P = 0.02) and the intensity of infestation was lower in experimental houses (6 versus 23 mice/treatment). More than 25% of the mice trapped inside the houses had been marked outside the houses during the three-day surveys, demonstrating movement of mice adjacent to the buildings into not rodent-proofed housing. As in the previous autumn, most of the animals captured in (98.9%) and along the foundations of the houses (77.5%) were Peromyscus spp. These results demonstrate that Peromyscus frequently invade rural housing but rodent-proofing effectively eliminates or substantially reduces rodent activity.