5 Serious Diseases Spread by Mice and Rats

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Rodents can cause incredible destruction to your home, leaving gnaw marks along door frames, urine stains on floors, and fecal matter scattered about the basement or attic. However, a rodent infestation also puts your family’s health at risk. In addition to poisoning food, and the various sicknesses that may come as a result, rats and mice also spread many serious diseases; here’s a closer look at five of them.

  1. Salmonellosis

Most people think of salmonellosis as the disease they can catch from eating undercooked chicken, but indeed, rodents also carry Salmonella bacteria. Both rats and mice have been found to spread salmonellosis, as well as other foodborne illnesses, including E. coli and shigellosis.

Rodents shed bacteria in their feces, and you can catch salmonellosis if you consume any food or drink contaminated by those feces.

Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps, which generally set in between 12 and 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria. Most people recover with no lasting complications, but salmonellosis can be deadly for younger, older, and immune-compromised patients.

  1. Hantavirus

In addition to exposing you to harmful bacteria through food, rodents also expose you to a range of viruses called hantaviruses. These viruses cause a potentially deadly disease known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, or HPS.

HPS is spread by breathing in airborne fecal matter and urine from rodents. This is one reason why you should always wear a face mask when cleaning up rodent droppings

  1. Leptospirosis

Caused by bacteria in the genus Leptospira, this infection is also passed from rodents to humans via urine. You can catch leptospirosis by drinking water that has been contaminated with rodent urine, or even by touching urine-soaked building materials. Inhaling air that contains airborne urine particles may allow the bacteria to enter your body via the mucous membranes in your nose.

According to the CDC, people infected with leptospirosis typically start showing symptoms about two days to four weeks after exposure. At first, they develop flu-like symptoms of fever, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting. Sometimes, the disease worsens, causing kidney damage or meningitis.

Leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotics — often IV antibiotics administered in a hospital setting. If not treated early, it can cause lasting damage to the liver and kidneys.

  1. Rat Bite Fever

Rat bite fever is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterial species Streptobacillus moniliformis. A person may contract the disease by being bitten or scratched by a rat, touching a dead rat, or consuming food that was contaminated with rat feces or urine. Some evidence suggests that mice may spread the disease, too.

About seven to 21 days after exposure to Streptobacillus moniliformis, rat bite fever causes fever, vomiting, headaches, muscle pain, and sometimes also joint pain or a rash. The disease must be treated with antibiotics early on to prevent more serious symptoms such as infection of the lungs, heart, and brain. Without antibiotics, rat bite fever is often deadly.

  1. Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis

Also known as LCM, this viral disease is spread by the house mouse, Mus musculus. According to the CDC, you can contract the disease by direct contact with mouse urine or feces or by breathing in dust that has been contaminated with mouse urine or feces. About 5 percent of house mice in the U.S. carry LCM.

LCM causes fever, lack of appetite, general malaise, muscle aches, headaches, and vomiting. Some people also experience pain in their throat, chest, testicles, or salivary glands. After a few days, patients start to feel better, but then some experience a second, more severe bout of illness with meningitis, a serious infection of the membranes that line the brain and spinal cord.

LCM is not usually fatal, but it can cause permanent nerve damage and arthritis. Women who become infected during pregnancy may pass LCM on to the fetus, resulting in fetal death or serious birth defects.

As you can see, mice and rats can cause serious damage not only to your home but also to your health. If you suspect rats or mice have taken up residence in your home, practice impeccable hygiene and leave extermination to the professionals at A-Alert Exterminating Service, Inc. We have the training and equipment to safely eradicate rodents and other pests.

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