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  • Michael Perrino

What Diseases Can You Get From Rodents?

Updated: Jan 21



Rodents are known to carry several diseases that they can transmit to humans through contact with their urine, feces, or saliva. Because of this, it is important to be aware of these different diseases and how they can be transmitted. This prevents you from getting these diseases and dealing with all the problems that they come with.


So what are some of the common diseases that rodents carry and transmit to humans? Rodents like rats and mice can transmit diseases like hantavirus, leptospirosis, and salmonellosis to humans. However, these can be avoided by properly cleaning up after these pests and finding ways to eliminate them from your home.


Different Diseases Rodents Carry


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are over 35 diseases that rodents can transmit to humans, whether directly or indirectly. Here are some of the different diseases that they carry:


1. Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome


What it is: Hantaviruses are a group of viruses that are carried by some rodents. The Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a rare yet more severe disease caused by the hantavirus. The disease occurs mostly in North America, and only some kinds of rodents carry the virus.


According to the CDC, the deer mouse, the white-footed mouse, the rice rat, and the cotton rat can carry the hantavirus. However, not all of these kinds of rats carry the virus. Other rodents are not known to carry the hantavirus, but it is still best to avoid all mice and rats to be safe. It is also best to safely clean up any droppings or urine these rodents leave behind.


How you are infected: People can get HPS when they breathe in the hantavirus. This happens when rodent urine or droppings that contain the virus are stirred up in the air. It can also occur when they touch infected urine, droppings, or nesting materials that have the virus and then proceed to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.


Symptoms: If a person is sick of HPS, they will feel sick 1 to 5 weeks after contact with the virus. The person will have fever, severe muscle aches, and fatigue. They may also experience difficulty in breathing, dizziness, nausea, chills, diarrhea, and stomach pain.


2. Lassa Fever


What it is: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus. The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa like Ghana, Guinea, Togo, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and more.


How you are infected: People are infected by Lassa fever when they are exposed to food or household items that are contaminated with urine or feces of infected Mastomys rats. The disease is not as contagious, but can spread in settings where there are inadequate control measures.


Symptoms: A person will usually feel the symptoms 1-3 weeks after they come into contact with the virus. Most of the infected people will experience mild symptoms including a slight fever, general malaise and weakness, and headache. A more severe complication of the disease is deafness.


3. Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome


What it is: Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) is a disease that is caused by hantaviruses from the family Bunyaviridae. It primarily occurs in Russia, Korea, Scandinavia, western Europe, eastern Asia, and the Balkans.


How you are infected: Humans can get HFRS when they come into contact with and are exposed to aerosolized urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents. They can also be infected after exposure to dust from rodent nests. Likewise, people can also be sick with HFRS when infected urine and other materials come into contact with their broken skin or the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth.


Symptoms: Symptoms of HFRS usually develop within 1 to 2 weeks of exposure to infected material. In some rare cases, it can take up to 8 weeks to develop. These symptoms include intense headaches, back pain, abdominal pain, fever, chills, and blurred vision.


4. Leptospirosis


What it is: Leptospirosis is a disease that can infect both humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. The disease occurs worldwide, but is more common in countries with temperate or tropical climates.


How you are infected: The bacteria that causes Leptospirosis spreads through the urine of infected animals. Their urine can get into water or soil and survive there for several weeks. This means a person can be sick with Leptospirosis through contact with the infected urine or the contaminated water/soil.


Symptoms: Symptoms of Leptospirosis begin around 2 days to 4 weeks after exposure to the bacteria. These symptoms include high fever, headache, chills, muscle, ache, nausea, and more. Leptospirosis can also occur in two phases. If a second phase occurs, it is more likely to have worse symptoms like kidney or liver failure, or meningitis.


5. Plague


What it is: Plague is an infectious disease caused by Yersinia pestis bacteria. Plague has been responsible for widespread pandemics throughout history, but can now be treated using antibodies. According to the WHO, the disease is found in all continents except Oceania, but most of the human cases since the 1990s have been reported in Africa.


How you are infected: It can be transmitted between animals and their fleas, and it can also be transmitted from animals to humans. The disease can spread through a bite from an infected flea or through direct contact with an infected animal.


Symptoms: The disease has an incubation period of 3-7 days and common symptoms include fever, chills, and weakness. When left untreated, it can develop to become a more severe disease and can be extremely fatal.


6. Rat-Bite Fever


What it is: Rat-bite fever (RBF) is caused by two different bacteria: Streptobacillus moniliformis, which is more common in North America, and Spirillum minus, which is more common in Asia.


How you are infected: The disease can spread through a bite or scratch wound of rodents infected with the bacteria. It can also spread through eating or drinking water that is contaminated with rat feces. The symptoms of the disease will vary depending on the two types of disease: streptobacillary RBF, and spirillary RBF.


Symptoms: Symptoms of streptobacillary RBF include fever, vomiting, headache, and muscle pain. Some people who have streptobacillary RBF can experience joint pain, swelling, or develop a rash that appears on the hands and feet. These symptoms usually occur around 3-10 days after contact with the bacteria.


On the other hand, symptoms of spirillary RBF include fever, swelling or formation of ulcer at the bite wound, swollen lymph nodes, and rash. These symptoms usually occur 7-21 days after exposure to an infected animal.


7. Salmonellosis


What it is: Salmonellosis is caused by the bacteria Salmonella and usually affects the intestinal tract. It is a common illness with over 40,000 cases reported in the United States every year.

How you are infected: People can get salmonellosis when they consume food or water that is contaminated by rat feces. It can also occur when people don’t wash their hands thoroughly after handling rodents or their cages and bedding.


Symptoms: Symptoms of this include cramps in the stomach, diarrhea, fever, chills, vomiting, and bloody poop. These show up 8 to 72 hours after infection and don’t last for more than a week. However, it can take months before your bowel movement goes back to normal.


8. Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis (LCM)


What it is: Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis (LCM) occurs when a person is exposed to fresh urine, droppings, saliva, or nesting materials of infected rodents. The disease is caused by the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), a member of the family Arenaviridae.


LCM is also classified as a neurological disease, as the name implies. Women who are infected with the disease during pregnancy may also pass the infection to the fetus. It is not fatal, and in general, its mortality rate is 1%.


How you are infected: The primary host of LCM is the house mouse. It can be transmitted when a person breathes in dust that is contaminated with rodent or urine droppings. Sometimes, the disease can be transmitted through bite wounds.


Symptoms: Symptoms usually occur around 8-13 days after exposure and include fever, malaise, headaches, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and muscle aches. Some people may experience the second phase of infection with symptoms like meningitis, encephalitis, or meningoencephalitis.


Avoiding Rodent Infestation and Diseases


Since rodents are known to carry and transmit many diseases, it is important to know how to properly clean up after them to avoid being infected. Here’s what you can do to avoid rodent infestations and the diseases that they carry:


  • Avoid sweeping or vacuuming after rodents: When faced with a rat infestation at home, you should avoid sweeping or vacuuming up rat urine, droppings, or nests. This causes virus particles to go into the air which can lead to infection.

  • Clean up properly: Instead of sweeping a vacuuming, the CDC recommends using a commercial disinfectant or a bleach and water solution. To clean up, simply wet the rodent urine and droppings with the disinfectant or solution. Let it sit for 5 minutes before wiping down and cleaning the area again.

  • Protect yourself while cleaning: When cleaning up after rodents, it is important that you use gloves to prevent contamination. You may also use a mask to prevent inhaling the urine and droppings.

  • Eliminate rats from your property: Traps and rodent repellents, which are widely available in stores and online, can help you eliminate rats from your property. You may also make your house unattractive for these rodents by removing anything that can serve as food sources or nesting materials for them.


Professional Rodent Control at Midway Pest Management


With the number of diseases that rodents may transmit to humans, it is important to take care of a rodent infestation inside your house. There are many methods to eliminate these pests from your home, but it is still best to call professional help. Here at Midway Pest Management, we offer professional rodent control services in Kansas City.


Midway Pest Management has a team of experienced professionals to provide you with customized pest control solutions. Our staff provides a Personalized Inspection Report after an initial inspection to help you with your needs. We promise to deliver excellent service that guarantees a pest-free home for at least two years. Call us to know more about our services.


Learn more: What Kinds of Food Help Kill Mice?




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