Rat bit fever test

What Diseases do Rodents Carry?

Rats and mice carry a wide range of diseases and parasites, so there are a lot of good reasons to keep them out of the house (or business) and prevent close contact with humans. Not only do they carry range of parasites (such as flea and mites) that can transfer disease when they bite, but it’s the accidental contact with their droppings and urine that is the main cause of rodent related disease. Here is a summary of the health risks rodents pose to humans.

Rodent diseases

Most of the diseases that humans are likely to contract from rodents occur from eating food or eating off surfaces which have been contaminated by rodent urine and droppings. With mice depositing up to 1000 micro-droplets of urine a day, you have to assume that as soon as you have even one rodent in the house, that there will be deposits of urine in their foraging areas. As urine is not visible to the naked eye, it should be assumed that urine could be in the food preparation areas, thus increase the possibility of disease transfer.

Leptospirosis is one of the more common diseases associated with rodents. It can enter the body through cuts, ingestion or rubbing eyes with infected hands. The symptoms are flu-like, but also similar to meningitis in that you can also get neck stiffness and pain when looking at the light. It is a bacterial infection and so can be readily treated with antibiotics.

Rat bite fever also causes flu-like symptoms but with more muscle pain and rashes, and also vomiting and headaches. Although its name indicates it is transferred though being bitten by an infected animal, it can also be transferred through ingesting food or water contaminated with urine or droppings from an infected animal. Like Leptospirosis, at it is a bacterium, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Rodents, particularly mice, also carry a virus which causes lymphocytic choriomeningitis. As its name suggests it causes similar symptoms to meningitis – fever, aches and pains, loss of appetite and vomiting. Rodents also carry a number of microbes that can cause gastro problems such as salmonella.

Rodent parasites

Rodents can also carry a number of parasites, such as fleas, mites and ticks, which can also pass on diseases through their bites.

Perhaps the most famous disease transmitted by rodents is the bubonic plague or “black death”. But actually, the disease is caused by a bacteria, Yersina pestis, which is transmitted by fleas (most commonly the oriental rat flea), which generally prefer to bite rodents, such as the roof rat. However, when these rodents are living near humans, they will happily bite humans and also pass on the bacteria. Fortunately, the bubonic plague is no longer a ‘plague’ disease, but outbreaks still occur resulting in deaths in some parts of the world, although there have been no recorded outbreaks in Australia since 1926.

However, in Australia, rat fleas do carry the bacteria, Rickettsia typhi, which causes murine typhus. Symptoms occur 1-2 weeks after being bitten, typically involving fever, chills and tiredness, sometimes with a rash and often with a prominent scab at the bite site. It can also be transferred if infected rodent dust is inhaled when cleaning up after a rodent infestation.

Although rodent mites are commonly found on rodents, they will happily bite humans too. They can also spread a wide range of microbes, including those that cause murine typhus.

Black rats are a common carrier of ticks, including the paralysis tick. This is a common way for the ticks to get introduced into urban backyards, resulting in the increased chance of humans or pets receiving a tick bite.

Should you be concerned?

Well yes! Pest rodents are not cute and cuddly. They are renowned for contaminating food and spreading disease. What’s more they are also one of the main causes of house fires when they chew through electrical cabling.

How can you reduce the chances of catching a rodent borne disease?

  • If you have a rodent problem, don’t delay. Call a pest professional immediately (such as Rebel Pest Professionals) to get rid of the rodents quickly and safely.
  • After a rodent infestation, make sure you wear a mask when cleaning up any nest material and droppings. Ensure all areas of potential rodent activity are thoroughly cleaned with a disinfectant.
  • When picking up a dead rodent always ensure you are wearing gloves and place the rodent in a bag and seal, before placing in the bin.
  • Carrying our rodent proofing activities will minimise the chances of a rodent infestation in the future.

Find out more about our rodent control treatments.

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