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Health threats to children from mice and rats          Live trapping not a good idea!

Stolen bait but no dead rodents               Rats or Mice? How to tell

Understand your enemy: Rodent basic information

Mouse Facts

  • Mice travel over their entire territory daily, investigating each change or new object that may be placed there.
  • Mice have poor vision, hence their activity patterns rely heavily on smell, taste, touch, and hearing.
  • Mice use the long sensitive whiskers near the nose and hairs on the body as tactile sensors. The whiskers and hairs enable the mouse to travel in the dark, adjacent to walls in burrows.
  • Mice also have an excellent sense of balance, enabling them to walk along telephone wires, ropes and similar thin objects.
  • Mice are excellent jumpers, capable of leaping at least 12 inches vertically.
  • Mice can jump against a flat vertical surface using it as a spring board to gain additional height.
  • They can run up almost any vertical surface; wood, brick, weathered sheet metal, cables, etc.
  • They can easily travel for some distance hanging upside down.
  • Although they are good swimmers, mice tend to take to water only if left with no other alternative.
  • Mice are basically nocturnal in nature.
  • House mice breed throughout the year and can become pregnant within 48 hours of producing a litter.
  • There are usually about 6 mice to a litter and females may produce as many as ten litters (about 50 young) per year.
  • It takes 18 to 21 days for gestation, and 35 days for a mouse to mature. Most mice live anywhere from 15 to 18 months.
  • They make their nests out of the same types of soft materials as rats, and as many as 3 females may use the same nest.
  • They commonly nest in insulation in attics, also in stoves and under refrigerators.
  • Mice do not travel far from their nest, about 12 to 20 feet.


The three "R's" of Rodent Control
Reason - Route - Remove

1.  Get rid of the reason rodents are being attracted.  FOOD.  The most common rodent attractant in urban locations is wild bird seed.  Once a constant food source has been detected, rodents will leave pheromone trails for their family members to follow.  This could result in a large populations being attracted to your home or business.  An abundant supply of food will also speed up their reproductive cycle. Most people who feed wild birds don't realize they are probably feeding more rodents than birds. Pet food, grass seed and poorly stored human food are other attractants.

2.  Eliminate the route rodents are taking to enter living and working space. Once inside a building, rodents will follow plumbing and wiring to access all levels and many rooms.  Gaps around pipes should be blocked. Pay special attention to pipes under the kitchen sink, bathrooms, laundry room and hot water tank. Use stainless flex screens to block brick wall weep holes.

3. Remove the Rodents.  Once you have stopped attracting them and blocked off their entry points, you can focus attention on eliminating the rodent population. You will have a hard time attracting rodents to bait on a trap or poison bait, if you have not eliminated their usual source of food.
Baiting techniques.
Don't bother trying to catch them in live traps. Click here for the reason.

Slash Cost of Mouse Control

Guard your home against

o        Spiders

o        Mice

o        Snakes

o        Lizards & Scorpions

o        Wasps & Bees


o        Timber Framing

o        Electrical Wiring

o        Data Cables





 Feeding Habits

  • Mice normally feed 15 to 20 times per day and will eat pretty much anything a human will eat.
  • Food preference is cereal or seed, but also gnaw through insulation or wires, sheet rock, storage boxes, etc.
  • Mice are nibblers. They do small amounts of damage to many food items in "home range", rather than doing extensive damage to any one item.
  • While mice are nibblers and feed many times in many places, they have two main feeding periods, at dusk and just before dawn.
  • They have to consume about 10% to 15% of their body weight every 24 hours and require extremely small amounts of water.

Disease & Sanitation Factors

  • Mice droppings sometimes are confused with droppings from the larger species of roaches, such as the American roach.
  • Mice droppings are smooth with pointed ends, and are 1/8th to 1/4 inch long.
  • In six months, one pair of mice can eat about 4 pounds of food and during that period produce some 18,000 fecal droppings.
  • Deer mice are a primary vector of Hantaviral infections which cause hemorrhagic fevers.
  • Mice may infect food with their droppings transmitting such organisms as salmonella and the microscopic eggs of tapeworms.
  • Mice transmit disease in a number of ways including biting, infecting human food with their droppings or urine, indirectly via the dog or cat and bloodsucking insects.

 The most common way mice transmit disease organisms is by contaminating food with their droppings and/or urine. The most threatening organism spread by mice is Salmonella, a cause of food poisoning, spread via droppings. Other transmittable organisms include tapeworms via droppings, rat-bite fever via bites, infectious jaundice/leptospirosis/Weil’s Disease via urine in food or water, a fungus disease (Favus) of the scalp either by direct contact or indirectly via cats, plague and murine typhus via fleas, Rickettsial pox via the mite Liponyssoides sanguineus (Hirst), lymphocytic choriomeningitis via droppings, and possibly poliomyelitis (polio). Another problem is house mouse mite dermatitis which is caused by these mites when they feed on humans.   

Prevention & Control

Good sanitation is essential for effective long term control. Mice can enter any opening larger than 1/4 inch, making it virtually impossible to completely mouse proof a building.

The control of mice can be widely varied, depending on the individual situation. It may range from physically altering the conditions allowing the infestation, such as covering holes, filling cracks, etc. to baiting or trapping.

Disease in North America that rodents may harbor or disseminate
(Purdue University Cooperative Extension).



Rodents Implicated






rats, mice



rats, mice






rats, mice

Swine dysentery


rats, mice

Swine erysipelas





various rodents




 Mice and rats transmit diseases to poultry, hogs and other animals. They consume and contaminate feed, and their constant gnawing causes extensive structural damage to buildings, including fires. All resulting in financial losses to you.

To compound the problem, rats and mice breed at an alarming rate. Livestock and other farm facilities provide ideal conditions for rodents to breed with abundant supplies of food, water and harborage. A small population of rodents, left unchecked, could explode to thousands in just a few months. 

The inspection serves three useful functions:

1. Identifies the rodent species involved.

The most common rodent pests in livestock operations are the house mouse, Norway rat and roof rat. The house mouse is easy to recognize, generally 5-7 inches in length and gray in color. The common Norway rat, a large rodent usually 13-18 inches in length, weighs 12-16 ounces with reddish brown fur. The roof rat, found primarily along the west coast and in the southeastern United States, is a smaller black rat weighing between 6-9 ounces.

Rats and mice have unique behavioral characteristics. By identifying the species you can select rodent control products and strategies appropriate to that particular pest.

2. Determines the severity and location of the problem.

During the inspection, note where you've seen signs of rodents, which include burrows, droppings (rat droppings are about 1/2 to 3/4 inch in length; mouse droppings are 1/4 inch), gnaw marks, and rodent pathways. This information helps you determine the size of the infestation and where rodents are living and feeding. In that way, you have a better idea of how much bait to use and where to place it for optimum results. Rats and mice are nocturnal and are most active from dusk to dawn. Seeing them in the daylight usually indicates a heavy infestation.

3. Identifies where sanitation and rodent proofing are needed.

Look for the rodents' sources of food, water and harborage indoors and out, and wherever possible, get rid of them. Also note areas or entry points where rodents are getting into buildings, and, wherever feasible, fix or eliminate these entry points to "build rodents out."

Sketching a diagram of your facility that indicates problem areas is useful for keeping track of your baiting efforts. It'll help you evaluate what is working or where adjustments are needed in your rodent control efforts.


Steps to setting up a baiting program inside barns, and animal living spaces :

Place Rodent Bait Stations every 30-50 feet along the inside walls of all buildings. If necessary, stake or anchor the bait station to the ground or a permanent surface to prevent it from being moved and to keep the bait away from other animals.

Place  bait blocks in bait stations.

For mouse problems, you could also place  Mouse Bait Stations every 10-20 feet around the inside perimeter of buildings or wherever you've seen signs of mice. Be sure that these  bait stations fit flush along walls or in corners with the point directly into the corner. They can also also be placed along walls adjacent to entry ways to intercept rodents as they enter.

Place one single-feeding type bait in each Bait Station. Inspect stations  frequently until you have activity under control. Increase baiting in areas that have high rodent activity.

You may need to adjust the placement of the bait stations depending on the level of rodent activity. More frequent inspections and baiting may be required in some areas in the fall when rodents head into buildings for the cold season.

Keep up a fresh supply of bait. Rodents will reject rancid or spoiled bait. Bait securing rods also help bait blocks stay fresh longer by elevating them above the floor of the bait station, away from any moisture build-up.

Burrow Baiting.
Often the best way to control Norway rats is to bait their burrows. Place loose pellets deep in the burrow or crevice where you've noticed rodent activity. Try not to disturb the burrows.

Check burrows in 7 to 10 days after baiting. To monitor activity, close the burrow with wadded-up paper or cover with soil. Return the following day. A re-opened burrow means rodents still exist. Continue baiting. Check burrows periodically as part of your monthly maintenance program.

In Grassy and Weedy Areas.
The inspection may reveal rodent pathways leading to buildings. If you haven't already set up an outside perimeter baiting program, do so to intercept rodents as they move from their burrows or neighboring fields into buildings. Again, try not to disturb the rodents' habitat during baiting or they will migrate to other areas. Once you've gotten the population under control, trim back weeds and grass to get rid of rodent harborage.

Having trouble with bait being stolen with no dead or captured rodents to show for your trouble?  The following tips may help solve the problem.

  • Make sure that rodents are the culprits taking the bait from your trap.  Many times the thief is actually not a rodent; cockroaches, crickets and even ants could be making off with your bait.  Try dusting the area around the trap with a non-repellent material such as flour; this will reveal footprints to identify the pest.  Also, glue boards located next to your traps will capture insects and mice.

  • Are you using the correct trap?  A rat trap does not often capture a mouse, and a mouse trap will only irritate an adult rat!  Make sure that your trap matches your rodent. 

  • Expanded trigger snap traps catch more mice than a conventional metal trigger trap.  The expanded trigger snap traps are effective simply because the larger trigger provides a bigger surface for the rodent to step on.  An expanded trigger also provides more leverage, which means it takes less pressure to spring the trap.  Some traps even allow you to set the pressure of the trigger from soft to firm.

  • The ultimate bait is one that is accepted by the rodents and not easily removed from the trigger.  Try a variety of baits to find what works best in your situation.  In sites where food is abundant but nesting material is scarce, soft string, cotton balls, or strips of cloth are attractive to female mice and rats.   To enhance the material, try applying one or two drops of vanilla extract as an added lure.

  • Tie the bait down to the trap or use a sticky bait, like peanut butter, that cannot be carried away.  When using a sticky bait, smear a small amount on the top and bottom of the expanded trigger.  Some solid baits, like cheese, marshmallows or chocolate, can be melted onto the trigger with a match.  Use a piece of thread or dental floss to tie down solid baits.

  • Inspect your trap.  Whether or not a mouse or rat gets caught depends on the sensitivity of the trigger, the size of the trigger and the speed at which the kill bar flips over.  If a trap is old and slow, it can be improved by simply applying a small amount of vegetable oil or bacon grease to the spring.  Do not use machine oil, as this would repel rodents.  Although dirty traps that smell "mousy" catch more mice, do not let your traps get so gummy that the action of the trigger or the bar is slowed down.  Do not attempt to clean a filthy trap with soap and water.  Not only will the soap repel rats and mice, the water will warp the soft pine base of the trap, making it unstable and ineffective.   Once a trap becomes too gummy to use, toss it and replace with a new trap.   Snap traps are not very expensive and your time is important!


Health Threats to School Children from Rats and Mice
Jerome Goddard, Ph.D.
Medical Importance. Rats and mice which live in or near human dwellings are called Commensal rodents. There are three species of Commensal rodents in the U.S.- the Norway rat, the roof rat, and the house mouse. Many other species of "wild" rodents live outdoors - but still may occasionally be encountered by people.

Commensal - or domestic - rodents are of tremendous public health importance. They may eat or contaminate human food, carry ectoparasites such as mites and fleas into close human contact, cause allergies in sensitive individuals, and be disease carriers. In addition, there can be direct effects (not indirect such as disease transmission) of rodents on health such as biting. A study found an average of 500 cases of human rat bite per year in New York City between 1947 and 1953.1 In addition, one public health official estimated that more than 45,000 persons are bitten by rats nationwide each year.1 Rat bites may become infected with a wide variety of bacterial organisms, and there is a medical condition called "rat bite fever".

As to their uncleanliness, rats and mice gnaw through stored food packaging, eating portions of the product, but - perhaps more significantly - contaminating it with their feces, urine, and shed hairs. They also (mostly at night) contaminate food preparation surfaces such as table tops, food production machinery, and cookware in cafeterias. Cafeteria workers returning to work in the morning may think the counter tops are clean, when, in fact, they are covered with tiny drops of urine and hairs. Also, when rats or mice heavily infest a building, the place may become infested with human-biting mites and fleas (from the rodents), as well as taking on a generalized foul odor from the urine. Large areas inside buildings become drenched with urine over time, creating a disagreeable "mousey odor".2

Two notorious human diseases are associated with rats and their fleas - plague and murine typhus. Both diseases occur in rats and get transmitted from rat to rat and from rat to people by fleas. Murine typhus -- a spotted fever like infection -- is one of the most widely distributed arthropod-borne diseases, occurring in ports and coastal areas worldwide. Currently, in the U.S., it is restricted to southern Texas and parts of southern California.3 Plague - the disease that killed one-fourth of the population of Europe during the 14th century - still occurs in many parts of the world, with hundreds of cases reported annually. The disease - especially when it gets in the lungs - may be severe and often fatal. In the U.S., sporadic cases occur mostly in Arizona, California, Colorado, and New Mexico.3 Another human disease, leptospirosis, can also be acquired by contact with rats, their urine, or soil, food, or water containing the causative organism.4 Leptospirosis may cause high fever, rash, severe headache, abdominal pain, and sloughing of the skin.

Wild mice transmit another serious disease. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a rodent-borne virus that can cause severe respiratory problems and even death. Hantavirus is spread through the urine, saliva and feces of rodents, especially the deer mouse. Humans contract the disease by breathing dried particles of their urine or feces. This can occur by cleaning an indoor area that was infested by deer mice. The disease causes a victim's lungs to fill with liquid. Symptoms include muscle aches, fever and possibly chills, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain and coughing. The symptoms develop within one to six weeks after exposure. Hantavirus cases are known to occur mainly in the Southwestern United States and eastward to Pennsylvania.

In addition to disease transmission, introduction of ectoparasites, and food contamination, scientists are now finding out that rats and mice can produce asthma and allergies in the same way cockroaches and dust mites do. There will certainly be more research and new findings in this area in the near future. Apparently, people with allergies can develop hypersensitivity to proteins in rodent urine, causing asthma attacks. Results of skin tests on asthmatic children in major U.S. cities have shown that up to 18% of them have sensitivity to mice and 20% to rats.2,5 In one study, 95% of inner city homes had detectable mouse allergen inside.5 This study obviously points out the need for better rodent control in human dwellings.

Biology of the Pest Species Involved. The house mouse is a small rodent, weighing only ˝ to 1 ounce as an adult. Mice are usually dark gray color on the back and light gray on the belly. They may live their entire lives inside buildings, where they eat almost anything. However, they seem to prefer grains, meats, peanut butter, and sweet liquids. The Norway rat, also called the brown rat, wharf rat, or sewer rat, is the most widely distributed rat in the U.S., being found in all 50 states. It is a thick and stocky animal, weighing about 12 to 16 ounces, and with coarse brown fur and a blunt nose. The tail is shorter than the head and body length combined. In contrast, the roof rat (also called the black rat or ship rat) weighs only about 5 to 9 ounces, has a long tail, pointed nose, and blackish fur. Both rat species will eat cereal grains, meats, fish, livestock or pet food, and vegetables. In general, Norway rats nest in burrows in the ground, behind equipment, in wall voids, and the like, whereas roof rats nest in trees, vines, attics, ceiling voids, etc.

Control Options and Health Effects from Non-use of Pesticides. Control of rats and mice involves sanitation to remove food, water, and harborage areas for the pests, exclusion of rodents from buildings (plugging all entry points in a building), mechanical trapping/removal, and baiting with pesticides (rodenticides). Note: rodenticides are placed in tamper-resistant containers to prevent human exposure to the product.

If traditional pesticides (rodenticide baits, in this case) are not available to pest control personnel for the removal of commensal rodents in/around schools, then successful elimination of the pests -- and their associated health risks -- will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Pesticides should be considered as important "public health tools" in the removal of rodents. Failure to have such tools available to pest control personnel servicing schools will ultimately lead to children being exposed to rats and mice, their bites, and the diseases they carry.
In addition, there may be possible liability on the school's part for not having provided a safe, pest-free environment.

1. Weber WJ: Diseases Transmitted by Rats and Mice. Fresno, California: Thomson Publications, 1982.

2. Corrigan B: Mice just as important as roaches in allergy studies. Pest Control Technology Magazine (online), GIE Media, Cleveland, Ohio, February 7, 2001.

3. Goddard J: Physician's Guide to Arthropods of Medical Importance. 3rd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2000.

4. Benenson AS, ed: Control of Communicable Diseases Manual. 16th ed. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association, 1995.

5. Phipatanakul w, Eggleston PA, Wright EC, Wood RA: Mouse allergen. I. The prevalence of mouse allergen in inner city homes. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2000; 106: 1070-1074.

Jerome Goddard holds a Ph.D. in medical entomology from Mississippi State University. He is a public health entomologist and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. Dr. Goddard has written a medical entomology textbook, "Physician's Guide to Arthropods of Medical Importance" which is now in its Third Edition and is used by physicians worldwide. In addition, Dr. Goddard has written two other books on medically important pests, three book chapters, and 80 scientific articles. He has been a visiting professor in the Department of Dermatology at the Mayo Clinic, as well as a member of a National Institute of Health panel convened to study the future of tick taxonomy in the U.S. In 1999, he testified before a congressional committee on the public health benefits of pesticides.

New Disease Spread by House Mouse

The common house mouse has spread a new disease. Currently still considered rare, Lymphocylic choriomeningitis (LCM). Infection occurs when a human encounters the rodent’s urine, droppings, saliva, or nesting material. Little or no symptoms result in those with normal immune systems. Those with weaker immune systems (i.e. the very old, the very young, etc), will initially have flu-like symptoms. It can then progress to the symptoms of meningitis or encephalitis. Most people do fully recover. Studies have shown that about 5% of urban populations are infected. Other rodents, such as hampsters and guinea pigs can become infected if exposed to the virus in pet stores or homes. It is not known to transfer from human to human contact. Take precautions, and follow the Center for Disease Control’s advice: If you have mice in your home, do not touch or stirrup the droppings. Wearing rubber gloves, wet them and the contaminated area with a disinfectant solution solution. Spray dead rodents with disinfectant and double-bag rodents, nest material, and cleaning materials for disposal. Wash hands thoroughly after handling pet rodents and call a professional to assist in the control of mice.


Navigational Instinct: A Reason Not to Live Trap Deer Mice in Residences

             Although the rodent that most often invades homes in North America is the house mouse, Mus musculus, the deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus, principal vertebrate host of Sin Nombre virus (SNV) (1), also invades homes (2), particularly in rural areas. Barring deer mice from human habitations would prevent domiciliary acquisition of SNV. Current recommendations (3) are to prevent wild rodents from entering homes or to snap trap (kill) them should they enter.

            To conduct longitudinal studies of hantaviruses in southeastern Colorado on a former cattle ranch now returning to its natural condition as short-grass prairie, we often stay in an old bunkhouse, used by many research groups at irregular intervals. The house, furnished with beds and full kitchen facilities, is well maintained but has openings through which mice can pass to and from the outside. For safety and cleanliness, we removed mice we found inside the house, but between April 1996 and April 1998, we live trapped and released them rather than snap trapping them. Before release the rodents were identified to species; were measured and assessed regarding general appearance and health, sexual preparedness, and presence of wounds; were bled for antibody tests; and were ear-tagged. Nineteen deer mice and one pinyon mouse (a P. truei, which did not return) were examined and tagged. At first, we simply released these animals approximately 50 m from the house, but when we realized that they were returning, we released them at increasing distances (50 m to 1,500 m) from the house; the distances were measured by pace counts by at least two investigators.

            Three deer mice had been captured multiple times in our test grid (as far as 250 m from the house) before they were first captured in the house. Once captured in the house, however, they were not captured in traps of the grid (i.e., outside the house). The mean distance traversed by the five deer mice that returned to the house was at least 394 m;

One mouse returned after being released 500 m and 1,000 m, then 750 m, and 1,200 m from the house at consecutive daily trapping sessions of 3 days. Sometime within the subsequent 6 weeks, this mouse returned to the house from the 1,000-m release point and then from 750 m and 1,200 m away on consecutive days within our 3-day trapping period. Each of the mice returning to the house did so within 24 hours of release, two as few as 6 hours after release from 500 m and 750 m away. Nine mice were captured once; six of eight mice captured twice were captured at least once more; one was captured 10 times, one 7 times, one 6 times, one 4 times, and two 3 times. Equal numbers of male and female, adult and juvenile mice were captured in the house, but only adult mice (5 of 5) returned to the house. Returning deer mice maintained or gained weight between captures and grew in length at approximately the same rate as deer mice captured in the test grid.

            Some rodents have been documented to move similar distances (e.g., 1,200 m), but they took more than 2 weeks to complete the trek (4). Homing ability, site fidelity, and navigational proficiency of rodents are well documented (5,6). Teferi and Millar (7) studied the homing ability of deer mice in Alberta, Canada;

 50% of deer mice in that study returned to their home sites (a short-grass prairie habitat).

 The mice traveled 650 m to 1,980 m (mean 1,500 m) and had to cross a river and pass optimal habitat patches to reach their home sites. Deer mice with previous homing experience were more successful in returning home (100%) than inexperienced mice (60%) and faster in doing so (8). Teferi and Millar (7) suggest that these deer mice were able to navigate in a direct route to their home sites. We released mice in locations where they had no direct route to the house; they had to follow a winding road, climb over rocky outcroppings nearly 17 m high, or otherwise surmount obstacles and dangers, such as predators (7).

            None of the mice we captured had immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody to SNV. However, infected deer mice released and then returning to a house or uninfected deer mice released, infected, and then returning to a house would increase the likelihood of human contact with an SNV-infected mouse. The risk would be the same for other hantaviruses infecting other peridomestic rodents. Against current recommendations that rodents in homes be snap trapped, some homeowners live trap and release them outside their homes. Our data strongly support snap trapping mice in homes and provide evidence that released wild mice return and may place the residents at risk.

We thank T. Davis, S.B. Calisher, and E. Kuhn for their assistance in completing these studies.
This work was partially funded by contract U50-CCU-813420-01 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Charles H. Calisher,* William P. Sweeney,† J. Jeffrey Root,* and Barry J. Beaty*

*Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA; and †University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA


1.Childs JE, Ksiazek TG, Spiropoulou CF, Krebs JW, Morzunov S, Maupin GO, et al. Serologic and genetic identification of Peromyscus maniculatus as the primary rodent reservoir for a new hantavirus in the southwestern United States. J Infect Dis 1994;169:1271-80.
2.Glass GE, Johnson JS, Hodenbach GA, DiSalvo LJ, Peters CJ, Childs JE, et al. Experimental evaluation of rodent exclusion methods to reduce hantavirus transmission to humans in rural housing. Am J Trop Med Hyg 1997;56:359-64.
3.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hantavirus infectionsouthwestern United States: interim recommendations for risk reduction. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 1993;42(RR-11):1-13.
4.Ostfeld RS, Manson RH. Long-distance homing in meadow voles, (Microtus pennsylvanicus). Journal of Mammalogy 1996;77:870-3.
5.August PV, Ayvazian SG, Anderson JGT. Magnetic orientation in a small mammal, Peromyscus leucopus. Journal of Mammalogy 1989;70:1-9.
6.Fluharty SL, Taylor DH, Barrett GW. Sun compass orientation in the meadow vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus. Journal of Mammalogy 1976;57:1-9.
7.Teferi T, Millar JS. Long distance homing by the deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus. Canadian Field-Naturalist 1993;107:109-11.
8.Robinson WL, Falls JB. A study of homing of meadow mice. American Midland Naturalist 1965;73:188-224.

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