San Diego, California - County environmental health officials urged people living in or around fire-damaged neighborhoods Thursday to take some simple precautions to help keep disease-carrying pests from potentially multiplying or getting into homes in those areas.

Sealing up holes in homes, garages and sheds, cleaning pools, and remembering not to leave pet food out at night could help keep rats whose nests have been destroyed by the fires from invading homes and mosquitoes from breeding, County Vector Control Program officials said. Vectors are animals that can spread disease to people.

“We are asking residents to take precautions and to notify us if they see an increase in pests in their areas,” said Liz Pozzebon, Acting Director of the County’s Department of Environmental Health. “Rats may be looking for food and shelter, and mosquitoes will breed in the pools and ponds on properties damaged by the fires.”

Vector Control actively treats areas countywide to control mosquito populations. Private pest control companies provide rat control services, but County Vector Control does conduct outdoor inspections, help pinpoint infestation sources, provide rat control starter kits and expert instructions on how to control rodents for free to county residents.

Environmental Health officials said people can take simple steps to protect against rats and mosquitoes:

  • Don’t leave pet food out at night.
  • Remove fruit that has dropped from trees in areas where rodents can find it.
  • Seal all external holes in homes, garages and sheds to keep rodents from getting in. (Rats can slip through a hole the size of a quarter; mice can get in through a hole the size of a dime)
  • Properly bag and dispose of litter, trash and debris.
  • Keep swimming pool pumps on if you have electricity. Otherwise, put mosquito fish (fish that eat mosquitoes) or mosquito larvicide into pools and ponds where water does not circulate.

People can get free mosquito fish from environmental health at several locations around the county. You can use mosquito fish to control mosquito larvae until pools are chlorinated and pumps are running. Mosquito larvicide, such as bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), is available at home improvement stores and can be also be put directly into the pools to control mosquitoes.

For more information, contact the County Vector Control Program at (858) 694-2888 or www.SDVector.com. For more information about rats, go to Environmental Health’s page on rats, or watch the County’s “Got Rats?” video.