Rats and Mice Carry Diseases that Endanger Humans
There are as many as 35 diseases carried by rodents such as rats and mice. It is important to protect yourself from contamination or infection if you ever need to deal with dead rats or mice, or if you have an infestation of rats or mice in your home.
Diseases associated with rodents can be transmitted in a wide variety of ways.
- Rat or mouse bites or scratches
- Exposure to rat or mouse urine or feces
- Contact with rat or mouse saliva
- Contact with rat or mouse parasites (like lice or fleas)
- Exposure to rat or mouse hair, dander, droppings or other allergens
Rat bites and scratches can result in disease and rat-bite fever. People typically get Rat Bite Fever from infected rodents or from consumption of contaminated food or water. When you get the disease from contaminated food or water, the disease is often known as Haverhill fever.
Rat urine is responsible for the spread of leptospirosis, which can result in liver and kidney damage. It can also be contracted through handling or inhalation of scat (feces or urine). Complications include renal and liver failure, as well as cardiovascular problems. It is important to note that rats and mice leave a tiny trail of urine wherever they travel, and it can be seen under fluorescent lighting.If a rodent infestation is present, home occupants are most likely dealing with rodent feces and urine exposure.
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), a viral infectious disease, is transmitted through the saliva and urine of rats. The primary host of LCMV is the common house mouse. Some individuals who contract LCMV experience long-term effects of lymphocytic choriomeningitis, while others experience only temporary discomfort.
One of the most historically dangerous rat-borne diseases is the bubonic plague, also called “Black Plague,” and its variants. Transfer occurs when fleas from the rats bite human beings. Fleas transported on rats are considered responsible for this plague during the Middle Ages, which killed millions. From the transmission of bubonic plague to typhus and hantavirus, rat infestations can prove harmful to human health.
Rats also are a potential source of allergens. Their droppings, dander and shed hair can cause people to sneeze and experience other allergic reactions.
Diseases transmitted by rats fall into one of two categories:
- diseases transmitted directly from exposure to rat-infected feces, urine or bites and
- diseases indirectly transmitted to people by an intermediate arthropod vector such as fleas, ticks or mites.
Though the list below contains diseases or medical conditions that are all associated with mice and rats, most are not commonly encountered in the United States.
Schedule an Eastside Exterminators Rodent Inspection for your home or business, performed by one of our highly trained Rodent Inspectors. Call to learn more about our highly effective services at 425-482-2100.
Diseases Directly Transmitted by Rats
- Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome: This is a viral disease that is transmitted by the rice rat. This disease is spread in one of three ways: inhaling dust that is contaminated with rat urine or droppings, direct contact with rat feces or urine, and infrequently due to the bite of rat.
- Leptospirosis: This is a bacterial disease that can be transmitted by coming into contact with infected water by swimming, wading or kayaking or by contaminated drinking water. Individuals may be at increased risk of Leptospirosis infections if they work outdoors or with animals.
- Rat-bite Fever: This disease may be transmitted through a bite, scratch or contact with a dead rat.
- Salmonellosis: Consuming food or water that is contaminated by rat feces bacteria can cause this disease.
Diseases Indirectly Transmitted by Rats
- Plague: This disease is carried by rats and transmitted by fleas in the process of taking a blood meal. Domestic rats are the most common reservoir of plague.
- Colorado Tick Fever: This is a viral disease that is transmitted by the bite of a tick that has taken a blood meal from a bushy-tailed woodrat.
- Cutaneous Leishmaniasis: This disease is a parasite that is transmitted to a person by the bite of an infected sand fly that has fed on a wild woodrat.
Some species of rats such as the cotton rat or rice rat are known carriers of hantavirus. Very common to the Seattle area and the Pacific Northwest, Norway rats and roof rats are not known transmitters of hantavirus. Victims may be debilitated and can experience difficulty breathing. Hantavirus is transmitted to humans when they inhale airborne particles from rodent droppings, urine or carcasses that have been disturbed.
The first symptoms of the virus can be mistaken for the flu. Patients then suffer breathing difficulties that may prove fatal if not treated effectively and immediately.
In order to avoid hantavirus, all mouse feces, nest materials and dead rodents must be removed from the home. Spray suspected areas thoroughly with disinfectant before sweeping to avoid having anything become airborne. Use gloves to handle rodent carcasses or droppings and a respirator must be worn with functioning cartridges. Buildings should be aired out following an infestation. Everyone should use caution in dealing with rodents or rodent infestations and contact a pest control professional.
What can you do to prevent exposure to rat-borne and mouse-borne diseases?
Call Eastside Exterminators for professional rodent extermination service. We champion a thorough, 4-step process for the elimination and prevention of rats and mice.