With the change in seasons, also comes a change in the type of pest threats to your facility. Pests that may have been content in the warm summer months, are now seeking food, water and shelter to survive through the winter – and healthcare facilities provide pests all three of these necessities. As temperatures continue to drop, hospitals and other healthcare facilities can expect to see pests such as rodents, ants, cockroaches and stink bugs, looking for a way inside.
Pests in the healthcare environment can do more than harm your reputation; pests can actually pose health threats to your staff and patients. The most effective way to combat these fall intruders is to take preventive measures. Work with a pest management professional to implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program for your facility. IPM uses a combination of proactive management methods such as facility maintenance and sanitation to help prevent problems before they occur.
Here is an overview of the type of pests found in healthcare facilities during fall and IPM tips to help keep them away.
Rodents, like mice and rats, become an active threat in the fall, so rodent control and exclusion should be a top priority. Rodents seeking shelter can enter your facility through small holes – rats can squeeze through holes the size of a quarter, and mice can slip through holes as small as a dime. Once inside, their presence can lead to serious health threats. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rats and mice are known to spread more than 35 diseases worldwide, including Salmonella, Hantavirus and even E. coli. Rodents are also capable of causing serious structural damage with their constant gnawing.
To keep rodents away, conduct a thorough inspection of your building’s exterior and seal all gaps and holes where rodents may enter. Be on the lookout for droppings and gnaw marks, which can indicate an infestation.
This time of year can include a bevy of unique insects, commonly referred to as occasional invaders. These pests include stink bugs, box elders and lady bugs. While they do not typically cause structural damage or harm to humans, they can be a major nuisance. Install door sweeps, well-fitting window screens and weather stripping to prevent these pests from crawling inside.
Ants can be one of the most difficult pests to manage in the healthcare setting. Cool temperatures this time of year can bring ant trails indoors. Work with a pest management professional to locate the nest and devise a plan to prevent ants from getting inside. In food preparation areas, such as kitchens and employee break rooms, keep areas clear of any spilled food or drink. These areas can be a hot spot for ants.
Evidence of a few cockroaches in your facility could indicate the presence of many more. Cockroaches are known to carry an average of 33 different bacteria that can lead to life-threatening diseases such as Salmonella and E. coli. Additionally, allergens found in cockroach feces, saliva and cast-skins can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma symptoms, especially in children. Cockroaches live and breed in unsanitary conditions, so implementing a stringent sanitation routine is key. Remove trash on a regular basis and keep dumpsters as far from the facility as possible. Inspect incoming packages in the kitchen, but also be aware that your patients may accidently transport them from home. Additionally, vacuum, sweep and mop on a regular basis.
Knowing what pests to be on the lookout for during fall can help your facility save time, money and even prevent larger pest issues down the road. Take action now and work with your pest management professional to implement these IPM tactics to keep pests away this fall.
Hope Bowman is a Technical Specialist and board-certified entomologist with Western Pest Services, a New-Jersey based pest management company serving residential and commercial customers throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Learn more about Western by visiting www.westernpest.com.