An important message from AEPMA

In late December 2019 a new virus emerged and changed our lives; the knock-on effect has been detrimental to our day to day business activities.

Here at the Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association (AEPMA) we have seen many of our members struggling to come to terms with the ever-changing business environment.

We have taken large numbers of calls and emails since the “lockdown” occurred and saw a question mark hanging over the pest control industry. The main question being, if our industry would be allowed to operate. 

As you may be aware by now AEPMA made representation to State, Territory and Federal Jurisdictions to allow pest control to continue as an essential service.

To date we have not received clarification on this matter, as there is currently no formal process for awarding essential status. 

However, at this point in time, all state and territory governments have emphasised to AEPMA the fact that there is no restriction on pest control operations in Australia. 

Our position statement

We created a position statement on the importance of professional pest control, which has been widely circulated on social media platforms: 

The professional pest control industry is an essential service that is responsible for the protection of public health, food and property. The importance of these services has never been of greater concern than now, with the spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) the causative virus of Covid-19 disease.

Pests are widely reported in the spread of diseases such as West Nile virus, Lyme disease, salmonellosis, hantavirus, encephalitis and more. Cockroach and rodent allergens trigger asthma attacks in children; rodents contaminate or consume about 20% of the world’s food supply, and bed bugs can cause allergic reactions. 

Looking specifically at the current Covid-19 situation, recent structural and biochemical studies of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have identified two notable genomic features. (Andersen, K. G. et al, 2020[i]) They advise that the virus has a polybasic furin cleavage site with an O-linked glycans. This is important since it has a role in determining viral infectivity and the host range of SARS-CoV-2. The authors report, “it is likely that SARS-CoV-2-like viruses … will be discovered in other species.”

It appears that SARS-CoV-2 most probably originated from mutation within human hosts during late 2019; following zoonotic transfer of a SARS-CoV-2 like ancestor from another species, most likely a pangolin.

Whilst there is no evidence that the current human SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect other animal species, it is something that cannot be conclusively ignored. More possible is that a pest species could transport the SARS-CoV-2 virus on their body from an infected surface.

Researchers from Princeton, UCLA and the US National Institutes of Health have found that the virus can survive two to nine days on surfaces such as stainless steel, wood, paper, plastics and glass. (Kampf, G. et al, 2020[ii]).

Since we know that pests such as rodents and cockroaches do transport various viral diseases and, given the persistence of the SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces, it is prudent that we maintain vigilance and ensure premises are routinely protected from infestations by insect and rodent pests. The importance of the pest control industry to the nation as an essential service cannot be understated.

The current climate

A couple of weeks ago the Australian government passed legislation for a $1,500 per fortnight wage subsidy for eligible employers amid the coronavirus. We circulated information regarding this JobKeeper package to all of our members, which was well received. 

We advise you to seriously consider taking up any government assistance available to you in these challenging times, and contact your accountant or financial advisor if you have any questions.

Although we need to be physically distant from each other to help “flatten the curve” and our business environment seems to change on a daily basis, it is also important that we need to check in on our employees and friends regarding their mindset and any concerns they may have.

Its important during these times to ask, “are you ok?”

On behalf of AEPMA I would like to thank all our members, the individuals who have assisted our efforts, the team in our national office and the greater pest control community for their continued support.

Stay safe,

Vasilios Tsoutouras
President AEPMA

Andersen, K.G., Rambaut, A., Lipkin, W.I. et al. The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2. Nat Med (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0820-9.
[ii] Kampf, G. et al. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents.
Journal of Hospital Infection, Volume 104, Issue 3, 246 – 251 (2020).