Coronavirus Chicago: Rats starved by pandemic invading homes, experts warn

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning about "aggressive" rats looking for food during the pandemic. As the rodents find their way inside homes, experts share how you can defend yourself against the tiny invaders.

Although streets across Chicago have been mostly empty during the pandemic, pest control experts are now noticing rats are out in full force. With bars and restaurants empty, rats are being spotted in residential areas, including homes, yards, and even cars.

"They are hungry," said Robert Villamil, owner of Crow Pest Control. "Rats are wild and are looking for food and trying to survive."

Rodents are moving away from empty restaurants and bars where they used to find food and scurrying into residential areas.

"With the whole pandemic, restaurants are operating less. So what I am finding is that there is a lot less trash so the rats are finding their way into more residential areas," Villamil said.

Villamil said his company has had a 25 percent spike in rat calls during the pandemic.

"I have seen rats run in the middle of the day into a potted plant," he said.

The CDC is now warning of "unusual or aggressive rodent behavior" among rats starved during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The CDC said some cities have reported a spike in rodent activity.

Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation said there has been an increase in calls requesting rodent abatement this year.

"Very aggressive," Villamil said. "Trying to get into yards, garages. Brazen."

Health officials say the rodents have gone so far as cannibalism after their food sources have shut down.

"The rats have nowhere else to go so they turn on each other," Villamil said.

Residents and businesses are urged to take preventive measures to eliminate conditions that may attract rodents, like sealing up access into buildings, removing debris, heavy vegetation, and keeping garbage in tightly covered bins.

"We also need to make sure we secure the cans, put the garbage in the cans and make sure you have a fully-functioning lid," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

The city said they will continue to step up abatement efforts. If you see an issue, call 311.

The CDC provides more information and guidelines on its website.
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