With the onset of winter cold, many area critters have joined in the holiday spirit by entering homes and leaving tiny brown presents under sinks, in pantries and along baseboards.

Pest control companies have stayed busy, but residents here and those who plan to visit have little cause for alarm.

Mike Hart, owner and operator of Rose Hart Pest Control for more than three decades, said rodents and spiders want to find warm spots and have become unwelcome guests in many Hermiston homes in recent weeks.

He said dealing with rodents, which are unsightly, can also be somewhat dangerous.

“Depending on the type of mouse, some of them scatter hantavirus,” Hart said.

People can contract the virus — spread by deer mice, a less common cousin of common house or field mice — simply by breathing in air tainted with rodent droppings.

It can cause flu-like symptoms and is potentially deadly. However, Center for Disease Control data show Oregon residents have little reason to worry.

A state-by-state list of hantavirus exposure shows only 11 cases ever reported in Oregon.

Pam Schulz, infection control program manager at Good Shepherd Medical Center, said she has treated a few patients with hantavirus over the last five years, though the last case happened more than a year ago.

Good Shepherd emergency room manager Becky Schwartz said the pest-related injuries she sees are usually bites from spiders or insects.

She said about 25 patients come to the hospital every year because of an infection or allergic reaction caused by bites.

Ken Gummer, environmental services manager at Good Shepherd, said precaution is key when using pesticides in the home.

Every product works differently, he said, adding that reading instructions, understanding applicators and applying products correctly are necessary steps to take.

William Sather, who has owned Action Pest Control for nearly 30 years, said all the rodents looking to enter homes have probably done so by now.

He said the main pest risk people need to keep in mind this time of year is the possibility of finding uninvited roommates when traveling.

“If they’re staying in motels, they need to keep an eye out for bed bugs,” Sather said.

He said the insects are more prevalent in big cities and will probably be more of a problem for residents who leave the Hermiston area.

A community-created website, BedBugRegistry.com, lists reports of bed bugs in more than a half-dozen hotels in Portland and one in Pendleton, but zero cases in western Umatilla County.

Representatives from three Hermiston hotels — The Economy Inn, Oak Tree Inn and The Way Inn — all said they have never seen the bugs in their buildings.

Kellie Solinger, manager at the Oak Tree Inn, said if they did find bed bugs, staff would shut the room down and call an exterminator immediately.

Isha Butta, manager at The Way Inn, echoed Solinger’s comments and said her staff would quickly rid their hotel of an infected mattress if they ever found one.

In homes or hotels, the owner of Rose Hart Pest Control reminded folks that they can prevent most pesky invasions with a simple step.

Hart said 90 percent of the time, mice enter homes through a crack in the garage door. Replacing the seal along the bottom can protect homes and the health of the people inside — and let them sleep easier.

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