The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning about "unusual or aggressive" behavior being seen in rodents, as restaurant closures due to the spread of the coronavirus have cut off their food sources and left them searching for new places to eat.
The agency posted the guidance on its website this week, warning that areas that have closed or have limited service at restaurants and other commercial establishments as part of coronavirus restrictions have seen an increase in rodent activity.
Rodents often rely on food and waste generated by these food service establishments, the guidance noted, and many areas have seen more movement from rodents, and greater aggression, in the search for food.
The guidance called on food service establishments to take precautions and follow established guidelines when cleaning up after rodent infestations.
"Preventive actions include sealing up access into homes and businesses, removing debris and heavy vegetation, keeping garbage in tightly covered bins, and removing pet and bird food from their yards," the guidance noted.
The restaurant industry has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus, with many closing down as the first lockdown measures were put in place in March, and others moving to a more tightly restricted menu and delivery services.
Some cities have already taken action to deal with the more aggressive behavior from rodents. In New Orleans, officials started putting out bait in gutters and placing traps throughout the French Quarter shortly after coronavirus lockdown measures were put in place.
The city was one of the early epicenters of the outbreak in the U.S., which public health experts believe was related to large celebrations around Mardi Gras, leading to more widespread closures of businesses, including restaurants.As CBS News reported, New Orleans business owners said the city's rats immediately became more aggressive and brazen in the search for food.
"I turn the corner, there's about 30 rats at the corner, feasting on something in the middle of the street," Charles Marsala of New Orleans Insider Tours and AWE News told CBS News.
Others warned that the aggressive rodent behavior had the potential to compound the health risks from the coronavirus outbreak.
"There are pathogens in these rodents. Fortunately, we don't see many of the health outcomes," Claudia Regal, head of the local pest control board, told CBS News. "We don't have very many disease cases that are actually related to rodents. But the potential is there."