The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning that rodents are becoming increasingly aggressive as they scavenge for food amid a mass closure of restaurants caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
In an advisory posted to its website, the health agency noted that rodents rely on food and waste generated at commercial establishments such as restaurants. Closures and limits on service have caused rodents to search for new sources of food and to exhibit more erratic behavior.
The CDC said some areas have reported "an increase in rodent activity" and that environmental health and rodent control programs should be prepared for more calls about "unusual or aggressive rodent behavior."
Residents and business owners can prevent attracting rodents by sealing up access to their homes or buildings, removing debris and heavy vegetation, keeping garbage in tightly covered bins, and removing pet food, the CDC advised.
The agency also noted the need for following established protocols when cleaning up after rodent infestations in order to prevent exposure to rodent-borne diseases.
Rodents have posed problems for several cities in the U.S. amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
Washington, D.C., had nearly 500 calls regarding rodents during a 30-day period between March and April, according to NBC News.
Baltimore reportedly saw 11,000 "proactive" calls or online 311 requests about rats during the same period.
Chicago is also among the cities seeing rodents change their behavior as they search for food.
"As they look for food, people are noticing them more," Robert Villamil, owner of Chicago-based Crow Pest Control Inc., told the Chicago Tribune. "Rats carry disease and they’re very unsightly, so it’s a big thing. People are wanting to take steps to keep rats away from their homes."