What diseases are rats carrying? 35 diseases transmitted by rodents
Rats don’t just sneak into your food, gnaw on your belongings, and leave droppings everywhere, they are also effective at transmitting viruses to humans through their droppings, urine, and parasites. . Yuck!
When you find evidence of rats in or near your home (including scratches, feces, or a bad odor), it’s best to treat the pests as a health hazard, according to Bobby Corrigan, Ph.D., an urban rodent based in New York City. “If you don’t want those germs or diseases, don’t let rats pile up around your property in large numbers,” he says.
So which rat-borne diseases should you be concerned about? And how can you prevent pests from contaminating your home? Here’s what the experts want you to know.
What diseases are rats carrying?
When rats and mice enter your home, they bring with them a number of pathogens. Around the world, rodents are known to spread over 35 diseases to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); rats are responsible for many of them.
Rats transmit diseases in two ways: directly and indirectly. Direct transmission occurs when humans accidentally touch infected urine, feces, or rodents. Here are the most common diseases transmitted by rats and transmitted directly by rodents, according to the CDC:
- Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, severe respiratory illness causing flu-like symptoms, dizziness and stomach problems at first, then extreme shortness of breath
- Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease causing flu-like symptoms, plus jaundice and red eyes
- Plague, a disease causing rapid onset fever, chills and weakness, as well as necrotic tissue, swollen lymph nodes or pneumonia, depending on the strain
- Rat bite fever, an illness causing fever, vomiting, rash, headache, and body pain
- Salmonellosis, a bacterial infection causing diarrhea
- Tularemia, a disease causing fever and sometimes ulcers, inflammation and chest pain
Indirect transmission occurs when a rat’s parasites (such as ticks and mosquitoes) bite and also infect humans; diseases they can transmit include babesiosis, Lyme disease and West Nile. Rats don’t transmit rabies, Corrigan notes.
“The main diseases of concern in rats are leptospirosis and salmonellosis,” says Ian Williams, certified entomologist and director of technical services at Rollins, Inc. in Atlanta, because they are so common. Plague is extremely rare, but it is a little more common in the western United States than elsewhere in the country.
How do rats spread disease?
Rats catch viruses the same way humans do: with their fingers and their mouths. “They hang out in alleys, near garbage cans and in sewers,” Corrigan explains. “All these germs are picked up on their feet and they eat them.” (Fortunately for us, we can wash our hands.)
From the moment they enter a home, rats “urinate and defecate almost constantly,” Corrigan says, leaving viruses everywhere they go, including on your surfaces, around your basement and in your pantry. . Unsuspecting people sometimes touch, inhale and consume this urine and feces, letting these germs enter their bodies.
“Rats can also introduce ectoparasites, like fleas, ticks and mites, into your home where they can affect humans and pets,” Williams says, “causing nuisance and sometimes spreading disease.” As mentioned above, ticks, flies, and fleas can each infect humans after leaving their rat hosts behind, indirectly spreading disease to human hosts.
How Can You Keep Rats Out of Your Home?
Preventing rat-borne diseases is as easy as keeping rats out of your space, and it’s easier than you might think. “Prevention is the key,” says Williams, so keep woodpiles away from your home, clear dense vegetation from your home’s foundation, and eliminate all sources of food and water in your garden, including seeds for your garden. birds. And seal any spaces that are at least half an inch wide under exterior doors, in your foundation, and around your roof, he advises.
You also need to properly dispose of your waste. Seal all trash inside a bag, then make sure your trash can lid is firmly in place, recommends Corrigan. It is also worth spraying a 10% bleach solution from time to time on your canister; This will ensure that rats and mice smell of bleach instead of garbage, keeping them away from your home.
If you’re trying to deal with a rat infestation, don’t try to do it yourself. Both experts point out that it’s best to contact a pest control professional, who can help keep rodents out for good.
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