West Oahu needs a pied piper
A rise in the mouse population is blamed for some illnesses
Nanakuli resident Belina Kekino has caught four mice inside her home in the past three days and suspects an explosion in the Leeward Oahu rodent population might have infected her grandchildren.
"This is the worst I've seen in the 10 years I've been living here," said Kekino, who lives in a household of 11 people on Waiea Place.
"The baby just started showing symptoms today, and the other two (grandchildren) started about three days ago," said Kekino, who has five grandchildren ranging in age from 1 to 5 years old. "We thought they were just sick with the stomach flu -- you know, with the runs, a fever and throwing up everywhere -- but now that you mention it, they could have gotten sick from the mice."
Arlene Buchholz, a public health veterinarian, said mice can transmit bacterial diseases such as leptospirosis, murine typhus and salmonella poisoning, all of which can cause flulike symptoms such as fever and body ache.
"A lot of times, people don't even know they were infected, because they (the diseases) look very similar to the flu," said Buchholz, who suggests anyone who suspects they might have one of these illnesses get tested right away so a doctor can prescribe antibiotics.
Department of Health officials are not sure how many people the mice have infected, but have seen a definite increase in the mice population.
"The mice population has been rising at an alarming rate," said Greg Olmsted, a program manager with the Vector Control Branch.
Olmsted said his department received more than 480 rodent complaints on Oahu since the beginning of the year and that the number of mice in Nanakuli has increased by six or seven times in the past month.
"The heavy rains this year provided the perfect conditions for breeding mice. They have a lot of grass and weed seeds to chomp on. And now as the weather gets hotter and their food dries up, they start migrating into homes. And if your homes are next to these areas, get ready for guests because the mice will make it their new home."
This has prompted personnel from the Vector Control Branch to start using a rodenticide called PROZAP in Nanakuli today.
Olmsted said personnel will treat undeveloped land with the poison and place rodenticide in a hard plastic container locked to a concrete block or stake in the ground if it is within 100 feet of a home. The poison is not for sale to the public and is harmful to humans. Warning signs will be posted with the plastic containers.
Olmsted said mice should die within 24 hours of ingesting the poison, and personnel from his department will return to the site "pretty much every other day" for the next couple of weeks to refill the rodenticide and properly dispose of any corpses.
Olmsted said that for the past month his department has used a device called a mice tin-cat to monitor the mice population in several other Leeward coast areas such as Maili, Waianae, Makaha, Makakilo, Royal Kunia and Ewa Beach. He said they are not sure if they will start using rodenticide in these areas.
MOUSE-PROOFING YOUR HOME
» Use tight-fitting screens over vents, windows and doors.
» Seal any openings in walls or building foundations greater than a quarter-inch.
» Use gnaw-proof materials such as sheet metal, cement mortar and mesh metal screen.
» Clear cluttered areas such as piles of leaves or newspapers for mice to nest in.
» Maintain clean pet homes and clear pet food containers regularly.
TIPS TO CONTROL INFESTATION OF MICE
Catching the mice
» Follow label directions.
» Use snap traps (glue traps are not as effective in dusty or wet areas).
» Check traps daily and remove dead mice.
Disposing of mice
» Do not directly touch mice.
» Seal the corpse in a plastic bag or container.
» Discard the plastic bag or container properly.
To report a mouse problem in your area, call the Vector Control Branch:
Oahu, 586-2535; Maui, 873-3560; Kauai, 241-3306; Big Island, 933-0917.
Visit the state Department of Health's Web site, www.hawaii.gov/health.