It’s true – rats are more afraid of humans than we are of them. But that doesn’t mean they’re not dirty, sneaky little creatures that can contaminate our food without us even knowing it.
Rats will always be viewed as pests, despised by many and feared by most. So what happens if you accidentally eat food that a rat has been snacking on?
If you consume food or water that has been contaminated by a rat, you risk contracting different diseases, some of which may include leptospirosis, salmonellosis, rat-bite fever, and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
Rats and Human Food: Why They Don’t Go Well Together
It’s no secret that rodents such as rats are considered health hazards. Rodents don’t wash their feet before they invade our homes, and they most certainly do not use toilet paper after they do their business.
In fact, rats frequently urinate – as much as 20 times an hour. Not only that, one single rat can produce about 50 droppings, half an inch long each, just within the day.
With these simple facts alone, rats and mice are considered to be carriers and transporters of many diseases, including food-borne illnesses.
These diseases can be easily passed on to humans who unwittingly eat contaminated food.
Different Diseases You Can Get if You Eat Food Eaten or Touched by a Rat
One of the nastiest things about rats is that they are known to carry a variety of diseases that can be easily transmitted to humans.
We can’t deny that these diseases can make us seriously ill, and in some cases, they may even be fatal.
When rats come scouring your kitchen looking for food, they may chew on some plastic wrappers, touching and contaminating the food inside.
They may also leave their droppings on your countertops or in your cupboards. If you’re not careful, you may end up eating food that has been contaminated by rats.
Here are some of the diseases you may contract if you eat food handled or eaten by rats:
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease mainly coming from drinking and eating food contaminated by a rat’s urine. Even the smallest amount of rat urine can already contain enough bacteria that can cause infection.
Symptoms of leptospirosis include severe headache, muscle pain, chills, red eyes, fever, and rashes. One out of ten cases may even lead to other more severe symptoms such as meningitis, kidney damage, liver failure, respiratory distress, and sometimes, death.
This is the most common bacterial infection that humans may contract from consuming contaminated food. It is usually caused by eating food or water that has been contaminated with rat droppings.
Abdominal cramps, fever, diarrhea, and vomiting are some of the symptoms of salmonellosis. The symptoms may last up to 7 days and, when not addressed immediately, may require immediate hospital care.
Rat-bite fever is another bacterial infection that may occur when you are exposed to rat(s) carrying the disease. This means that you can contract the disease even without getting bitten, although your chances of infection greatly increase if you are actually bitten by an infected rat. So even if you haven’t had direct contact with the rat, but the rat touched your food, and you ate it, you’re still at risk.
Symptoms usually manifest 3 to 10 days after exposure and may include fever, muscle aches, and vomiting. In some cases, a rash or swelling around the site of the bite may also occur.
Generally speaking, rat-bite fever is more common in children than adults. This is because children are more likely to play with rats or even try to catch them, which greatly increases their risk of exposure.
With proper treatment, this disease can be easily cured. However, if left untreated, rat-bite fever can be fatal.
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)
This is a rare but deadly disease that is caused by exposure to infected rodents. It is a virus that attacks the lungs and can cause severe respiratory distress. It is considered to be transmitted through airborne particles from the rat’s urine or droppings.
What does this mean? Even though you haven’t had direct contact with the rat, if you inhale particles from its urine or droppings, you can still contract the disease.
Some of the common symptoms may include stomach upset, coughing, dizziness, fever, fatigue, muscle aches, and chills.
Late symptoms may also show the affected having difficulty breathing and coughing due to the fact that the lungs may be starting to fill up with fluids.
Unfortunately, there is no specific cure for HPS, and it can be fatal in up to 38% of all cases.
How to Avoid Rats Diseases
The best way to avoid these diseases is, of course, to prevent rats from entering your home in the first place. Make sure that your garbage cans are tightly sealed and that there is no food left lying around. You should also try to keep your kitchen as clean as possible.
In terms of food, never eat any food that has been tampered with. Double-check food packaging for signs of rat damage, and make sure to cook food thoroughly.
Ideally, if you have any open food packaging, you may want to ensure that it is stored in a tightly sealed container.
Additionally, proper cleaning and sanitation is key to preventing the spread of these diseases. If you have any rats in your home, make sure to call a pest control professional to safely remove them.
It’s important to be aware of the dangers that come with eating food that has been in contact with rats. Not only are you at risk of contracting common bacterial infections, but you may also contract more serious and deadly diseases such as leptospirosis, rat-bite fever, or hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
If you think you’ve been exposed to rat droppings or urine, it is best to seek medical attention immediately. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, most of these diseases can be cured.