We all know that rodents are dirty creatures. They live in the filthiest of environments, feed on the grossest of things, and carry all sorts of diseases.
Their presence alone is enough to make anyone queasy. But even without contact with humans, rodents can pass on multiple diseases by simply touching surfaces or leaving droppings behind.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPV), leptospirosis, salmonellosis, tularemia, lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), and rat-bite fever are just a few of the diseases that humans can contract from rodents. Each one manifests differently, but all of them have the potential to be deadly.
Different Diseases from Rodents and How You Can Get Them
What most people don’t know is that diseases from rodents aren’t just contracted through contact with the animal itself. In fact, the majority of diseases are contracted by coming into contact with rodent urine, droppings, or saliva.
Everything these rodents touch can be contaminated, and it only takes a tiny bit of contact to make you sick.
This means that diseases from rodents don’t necessarily require you to be in close proximity to the animal. If you live in an area with a lot of rodents, there’s a good chance that you’re already coming into contact with their urine and droppings on a daily basis without even realizing it.
Here are some of the various diseases you can contract from rodents, as well as how you can get them:
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPV)
This is one of the most deadliest diseases you can contract from rodents. It’s a viral disease that is typically spread through contact with mouse urine and droppings. Unlike other diseases, HPV doesn’t just affect the person who comes into contact with the droppings. It can also be spread through the air, making it even more dangerous.
This virus enters through the lungs and quickly starts to attack the respiratory system. Symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and muscle aches usually start to appear within two weeks. In severe cases, it can lead to respiratory failure and death.
Once the virus enters the human system, it will slowly spread, generally targeting the lungs first. The virus will cause the lungs to fill with fluid, making it difficult to breathe. This is one of the main reasons why HPV is so deadly – it can quickly lead to respiratory failure.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for HPV, and treatment generally focuses on alleviating symptoms and supporting the respiratory system.
This is one of the reasons why taking precautions and wearing a mask and gloves while cleaning up rodent droppings is so important.
If there’s one disease that’s commonly associated with rodents, it’s leptospirosis. This is a bacterial disease that’s spread through contact with contaminated water or soil that has been infected with rodent urine.
It can also be contracted through direct contact with an infected animal, such as a rat or mouse.
Leptospira, the bacteria that causes leptospirosis, can enter through cuts or scrapes in the skin. It can also be contracted through the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Once the bacteria enter the human body, it will start to multiply and spread throughout the bloodstream. Aside from humans, it also affects animals.
This disease is seen in different parts of the world but is more common in tropical and subtropical areas. The humid and hot climate is ideal for this bacteria to thrive.
Leptospirosis can cause a wide range of symptoms, including fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting.
In more severe cases, it can lead to organ failure and death. But the scary part about this is some people may have been infected with leptospirosis, and they don’t even know it.
This is because the symptoms of leptospirosis are very similar to other diseases, such as the flu. The only way to know for sure if you have leptospirosis is to get tested by a doctor.
Treatment for this disease is generally antibiotics, and most people will make a full recovery. However, some people may experience long-term effects such as liver or kidney damage.
Again, this is another disease that can be prevented by taking proper precautions. Flood water, for example, is a common source of leptospirosis. If you come into contact with flood water, it’s important to wash the wound immediately and see a doctor if you start to experience any symptoms.
Unlike the first two diseases that we’ve mentioned, rat-bite fever is spread through a bite or a scratch from an infected rat. The bacteria found in this disease, Streptobacillus moniliformis, is usually found in the rat’s mouth.
This disease is more common in children than adults because they’re more likely to be bitten or scratched by a rat. It can also be contracted through contact with an infected animal, such as handling a dead rat.
According to studies, 10% of cases where rat bites lead to infection, rat-bite fever is the cause. Gerbils, squirrels, dogs, cats, and mice can be carriers and may also be infected with the said disease.
People who are most likely to get infected with rat-bite fever are those who keep rats at pests, or individuals living in crowded and unsanitary conditions, where rats are most likely to take shelter.
Originating from the bacteria Salmonella, salmonellosis is transmitted through stools – either from humans or animals. The infection starts whenever someone eats or drinks food contaminated by this bacteria. This is usually passed on by humans handling food without washing their hands after going to the toilet.
It can also be passed on by contact with contaminated surfaces, such as countertops and cutting boards. And because rats and other rodents are often found in unsanitary conditions, it’s not surprising that they’re carriers of this disease.
Eating raw or undercooked meat is one of the most common ways to contract salmonellosis. This is because bacteria can be found in the animal’s intestines. To avoid this, make sure to cook your meat thoroughly – especially poultry.
Symptoms of salmonellosis include fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. These usually appear 12 to 72 hours after infection.
In most cases, the illness will go away on its own and doesn’t require any treatment. However, some people may need to be hospitalized if they’re dehydrated or have a severe case of diarrhea.
Although tularemia isn’t necessarily exclusively spread by rodents, these animals are the most common carriers. The bacteria that causes this disease, Francisella tularensis, is found in the animal’s liver, spleen, and lymph nodes.
Tularemia can be contracted through various ways, such as direct contact with an infected animal, inhalation of the bacteria, or a tick or mosquito bite. It can also be passed on to humans through handling contaminated food or water.
Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (LCMV)
The common house rat is the first one to blame for this disease. Newborns and pregnant women are the ones who are at high risk for LCMV, causing abnormalities and birth defects to the unborn child.
What Can You Do to Prevent These Diseases
Though rodents may seem harmless, as you can see they can be carriers of a number of dangerous diseases. So what can you do to prevent these diseases?
Keep Your Home Clean
One of the best ways to prevent rodents from entering your home is to keep it clean. Rodents are attracted to places where there is food or exposed garbage, so make sure to keep your counters and floors clean and free of crumbs. Additionally, you have to ensure that your garbage is in sealed containers and take it out on a regular basis.
Get Rid of Clutter
Rodents love places where they can hide, so it’s important to get rid of any clutter in your home that might provide them with shelter.
This means putting away things like boxes and newspaper and decluttering closets and other storage spaces.
Fix Any Holes or Cracks
Rodents can squeeze through incredibly small spaces, so it’s important to check your home for any holes or cracks that they might be able to use to get inside. If you find any, seal them up with caulk or another type of filler.
Utilize Rodent-Repellent Plants
There are some plants that naturally repel rodents like peppermint, garlic, and catnip. Planting these around your home can help deter rodents from being able to enter your premises.
Set Up Mouse Traps or Use Poison
If you have a rodent problem, one of the best ways to get rid of them is to set up mouse traps around your home.
You can also use poison, but be careful with this method as it can be dangerous for children and pets.
Clean Your Home, But with Caution
If you have a rodent infestation, it’s important to clean your home carefully. This means disposing of any contaminated food and cleaning all surfaces with hot water and bleach.
It’s also important to wear gloves and a mask to avoid coming in contact with the bacteria.
What Diseases Can You Get From Rodents: Final Thoughts
Rat-bite disease, leptospirosis, hantavirus, salmonellosis, tularemia, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis are just some of the diseases that rodents can carry and spread to humans.
Their presence in your home, even without direct contact with these pests, is enough to contaminate food and surfaces in your home.
Preventing rodent infestation should be a top priority in every household, not just to avoid these diseases but also to maintain a clean and safe environment for everyone.