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Rodents & Risks to Cultural Heritage Custodians

By JoAnne Martinez-Kilgore for the Health & Safety Network

Custodians of cultural heritage items and collections, including conservation professionals, often encounter evidence of rodent activity in the form of droppings, staining, gnawing, and nests. At times they respond to live infestations or find rodent carcasses. Rodents find food, nesting material, and protected spaces within cultural heritage structures and storage areas, in caves, in previously disturbed soils of archaeological sites, and within human/animal remains. Contact with rodent excreta, secreta, and remains present an acute risk for humans; infected rodents can easily spread viruses. The virus that presents the largest risk of transmission from infected rodents in North America is the hantavirus, which can cause a serious, life-threatening condition known as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS).

Rodents serve as reservoir hosts for these viral agents. Each strain of hantavirus is linked to a specific carrier. The geographic distribution of human cases of disease caused by hantaviruses are a result of the distribution and natural history of their primary rodent hosts. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), within the United States, four rodents carry the virus that can causes the HPS disease – the deer mouse, the cotton rat, the rice rat, and the white-footed mouse. The deer mouse is abundant in the United States (figure 1). The range of the deer mouse includes most of the continental US and much of Mexico and Canada.

Read the lead article >>

From the Executive Director

By now, I expect you all have learned of the Member Designation Proposal that will come to a vote later this fall. Now is the time to ask questions about it and provide your comments. The Membership Designation Working Group (MDWG) welcomes your thoughts through October 15.

Since the first draft of the Member Designation Proposal was completed in 2019, the MDWG has solicited feedback broadly and has already considered comments from AIC committees, network officers, specialty group officers, and the AIC Board of Directors as well as over 500 individual members. It’s easy for you to comment by email or in the member community, of course, but presentations and listening sessions have also allowed for virtual exchanges of information and perspectives, and I hope you took advantage of these opportunities. Now in progress, the AIC board and WG members are responding to key questions raised by members. You will see these responses in e-blasts and the member community.

Read the letter from Eryl Wentworth >>