Pests

Some insects and animals (rodents, mosquitos, ticks) can carry disease-causing viruses and bacteria while others don't (lice, bed bugs).

 Rodents

Rodents can spread diseases such as Salmonellosis, Hantavirus and Typhoid fever. Cities can provide excellent habitats for rats and mice. They eat almost anything and breed quickly.

Rodents contaminate food with their urine, droppings, saliva, and fur.

Rats and mice can damage property by biting through rubber, aluminum and other soft metals, cinder blocks, plastic and wood.

Prevention

Rodents can enter your home through small holes and gaps. Mice can fit through a hole the size of a dime and rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter.

To prevent rodents from entering your home you can:

  • Seal up any holes or gaps inside or outside your home
  • Trap rodents in and around your home using proper traps
  • Clean up any sources of food or water inside and outside your home
  • Clean up your yard and remove anything that might provide shelter, including wood piles
  • Turn over compost piles regularly
  • Keep bird feeders away from the house and utilize squirrel guards to limit access to the feeder by squirrels and other rodents
  • Keep outside cooking areas and grills clean
  • Keep food in sealed containers
  • Use a green bin or a secure container with a sealed lid for food waste
  • Use a thick plastic or metal garbage can with a tight lid

Clean up safely

To keep safe when cleaning areas where rats and mice were found: there are things you can do to keep you safe:

  • Wear rubber gloves to handle urine and droppings
  • Spray urine and droppings with a disinfectant or a mixture of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water; or use a commercial disinfectant and follow the manufacturer's instructions
  • Use a wet mop or cloth to clean surfaces with a mixture of 9 parts water and 1 part bleach
  • Throw out any food that came in contact with a rodent
  • Wash your hands thoroughly

In the case of a serious infestation, contact a licensed pest control company.

 Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small, biting insects that multiply quickly and travel easily. Bed bugs do not cause disease or illness.

Bed bugs can be prevented and controlled. The sooner you respond, the more successful you will be at controlling bed bugs.

Prevention

Regular inspection and house cleaning can help prevent a bed bug infestation. You can:

  • Clean up clutter to reduce the number of hiding spots for bed bugs
  • Seal cracks and crevices with caulking
  • Check used furniture or clothing before it enters your home
  • Vacuum your mattress

Identification

Bed bugs are insects with oval-shaped bodies and no wings. Bed bugs usually bite at night and will bite all over, especially around the face, neck, chest, arms and hands.You can look for bed bugs:

  • Behind your headboard and around the edges of your bed
  • In the seams and tufts of your mattress
  • Inside the box spring and along the bed frame
  • In and around nightstands

Action

Consult with a pest control professional to confirm that you have bed bugs.

  • Use a nozzle attachment on your vacuum to remove bed bugs and their eggs
  • Vacuum all crevices of your mattress, bed frame, baseboards and any objects close to your bed.
  • Vacuum daily and empty the vacuum bag immediately
  • Wash all clothing, bedding, mattress pads, and pillows in the hottest water possible and place in a hot dryer for 30 minutes
  • If items cannot be cleaned, dispose of them in a tightly sealed plastic garbage bag
Getting rid of a bed bug infestation usually requires the use of pesticides. Only professionals should apply pesticides for bed bugs. To find a licensed pest control company near you, contact:

Additional resources

 Mosquitos

West Nile virus is carried by mosquitos and can cause mild to severe illness. The virus spreads when a mosquito feeds on an infected bird and then bites a person.

You can protect yourself from mosquito bites by:

  • Removing standing water from the outside of your home
  • Using screens on all windows and doors
  • Wearing protective clothing including light-coloured pants, long-sleeved clothing, socks, shoes and a hat
  • Using insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin. Apply insect repellent following manufactures directions.

Visit the Insect and Animal Diseases page for more information on protecting yourself from mosquitos and West Nile virus.

Ticks 

Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria carried by blacklegged ticks. The disease spreads when an infected tick bites a person.

You can protect yourself from tick bites by:

  • Wearing light-coloured pants and long-sleeved clothing
  • Tuck your pants into your socks
  • Stay on the trail if you're hiking
  • Wear an insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin

After an outdoor activity, you can:

  • Put your clothes into a dryer on high heat for at least 60 minutes to kill any possible ticks
  • Check yourself and children for ticks. Take a shower as soon as you can to wash off a tick that may not be attached through a bite
  • Regularly check pets that spend time outdoors. Ticks may attach to them and be carried indoors, putting you and your family at risk of being bitten

Visit the Insect and Animal Diseases page for more information on protecting yourself from ticks and Lyme disease, or check the Tick Information Card.

Head Lice 

Discovering that you or your child has head lice can be upsetting. However, head lice do not cause disease or illness and are not a public health issue.

Prevention

You can prevent the spread of head lice if you:

  • Avoid hair-to-hair contact with people
  • Tie back long hair
  • Do not share clothing
  • Do not share combs, brushes or towels

Speak to your doctor or pharmacist for information on head lice treatment.

Identification

Adult lice are gray or beige in colour, 2-4 mm long and have six legs. Lice lay eggs called nits. Nits stick to the hair shaft and are often found behind the ears and at the back of the neck.

Action

If you are concerned about head lice in a school or daycare centre, please contact your child's:

  • Teacher
  • School principal
  • Daycare worker

Each organization has its own policy for managing head lice. Public Health does not regulate these policies.

If you need assistance in your home for head lice treatment you can contact:

  • A private nursing agency
  • A private head lice agency

There is a charge for in-home assistance by a private agency.

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