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How Can Rodent Diseases Infect Humans?

How Can Rodent Diseases Infect Humans

How Can Humans Contract Rodent Diseases?

At first glance, services like those we offer at Owl Pest Control Dublin may seem like just an added expense. But believe it or not, there is more to pest control than what meets the eye. Rodents, in particular, are not only pesky and scary to look at but they also carry more danger in the form of diseases.

No matter where you are in the world, except Antarctica, chances are you have encountered rodents at one point or another. While they may seem docile, common rodent species like mice and rats are not harmless and should never be ignored.

Aside from the obvious fact that they can cause some damage to your property and belongings with their incessant gnawing, rodents can also cause health complications and infectious diseases.

Rodent-borne diseases come in all sizes and shapes, from the more common bacteria-based illnesses like salmonella to more destructive viruses like hantavirus. All these diseases are inconvenient and nasty things to contract. Unfortunately, these are often transmitted by mice and rats that can enter your house in search of shelter and food that might lead to an infestation when left untreated.

The moment these pests enter and enter homes, they can end up spreading several diseases. But how can rodent diseases infect humans in the first place? Here are some of the most common methods by which rodent diseases are transmitted to humans:

Dead Rodents

More often than not, rodent diseases originate from the rodents themselves. This is why dead rodents can pose serious health risks to humans.

The easiest and fastest way for humans to catch a disease and get infected by a dead rodent is obviously by touching it. Pest control experts strongly advise against touching a dead rodent if you come across one. You might catch a rodent-borne disease or RBD if you touch a dead rodent and touch open parts of your body afterwards, like your eyes, nose, and mouth, as well as scratches or wounds.

In cases that you need to touch the dead rodent, be sure to put on gloves, and don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly after you do so to stop the spread of infections.

But again, the best thing you can do is to refrain from touching dead rodents. If you need help removing a dead mouse or rat, it is recommended to call an expert on pest control Dublin.

The most common diseases you can catch from dead rodents include rabies, tularaemia, rat-bite fever, and the plague.

Rodent Bites

Many diseases lay dormant and originate from rodents themselves. For this reason, rodent bites can result in some serious health concerns. You can catch diseases from rodent bites through saliva.

The moment a rat bites you, this will pierce your skin and allow the infected rodent’s saliva carrying the RBD to get into your bloodstream and result in you contracting the disease.

Some of the common rodent diseases you can catch from rodent bites include rat-bite fever, leptospirosis, tularaemia, and hantavirus.

Rodent Faeces 

Rodent faeces can harbour all kinds of diseases. A mouse can leave behind 50 to 80 droppings per night, scattering them randomly in the spaces they inhabit. You will have a higher risk of contracting rodent diseases if you are dealing with a large infestation in your home.

rat infestation - rat droppings
rat infestation - rat droppings

Rodent diseases can infect humans from faeces through contamination of food, water, and air. It is the result of the faeces mixing with the air or with the rodents defecating near or on water and food sources.

Aside from contaminating air and food sources, faeces can also spread rodent diseases as a result of direct contact. It can happen if you touch their faeces, you touch things that came into contact with the faeces, or your scratches or wounds were exposed to rodent faeces.

Several diseases can infect humans through rodent faeces and parasites, including:

Weil’s disease, also known as leptospirosis, is a severe and potentially life-threatening bacterial infection primarily caused by certain strains of the Leptospira bacteria. It is often associated with exposure to water contaminated by the urine of infected animals, particularly rodents. The disease can also spread through direct contact with an infected animal’s urine, blood, or tissue.

The symptoms of Weil’s disease can vary but often include high fever, severe headache, muscle pain, chills, redness of the eyes, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), vomiting, diarrhea, and rash. In severe cases, the disease can lead to kidney damage, liver failure, meningitis, respiratory distress, and even death.

The risk of contracting Weil’s disease is higher for people who work outdoors or in close contact with animals, like farmers, veterinarians, and sewer workers. It is also a concern for individuals participating in outdoor activities in contaminated environments, such as swimming, kayaking, or fishing in infected waters.

Prevention of Weil’s disease involves avoiding contact with potentially contaminated water, proper handling and control of rodents, and wearing protective clothing. Vaccines are available for animals to reduce the risk of infection, but there is no vaccine currently available for humans. Early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics are crucial for a good prognosis.

Salmonella is a group of bacteria that can cause an infection known as salmonellosis in humans. It is one of the most common causes of foodborne illness and can be found in a variety of domestic and wild animals, including rodents, poultry and pigs.

In humans, Salmonella infection typically leads to symptoms like diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, which usually develop within 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria. In most cases, the illness lasts about 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without any specific treatment. However, in some cases, especially in young children, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems, the infection can become more severe and may require hospitalization.

The primary mode of transmission is through the consumption of contaminated food or water. Common sources include undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, and egg products, as well as unpasteurized dairy products and contaminated fruits and vegetables. It can also be transmitted through contact with infected rodents or their environments.

Prevention of salmonellosis involves proper food handling and cooking practices, including thoroughly cooking meat and eggs, avoiding cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods, washing hands, surfaces, and utensils after handling raw food, and ensuring safe water sources. Vaccines are available for some animals, like poultry, to reduce the risk of Salmonella contamination.

Typhoid fever is a serious bacterial infection primarily caused by the bacterium Salmonella enterica serotype Typhi (S. Typhi). This infection is highly contagious and is often spread through rodent-contaminated food and water, or close contact with an infected person.

Symptoms of typhoid fever can develop one to three weeks after exposure to the bacteria and may include a high and sustained fever, weakness, abdominal pain, headache, loss of appetite, and sometimes a rash of flat, rose-colored spots. In more severe cases, patients can experience severe intestinal discomfort and life-threatening complications.

The disease is more prevalent in areas with poor sanitation and limited access to clean water. Travelers to endemic regions, such as parts of Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America, are at increased risk, especially if they consume untreated water or food prepared under unsanitary conditions.

Prevention of typhoid fever involves practicing good hygiene, such as regular hand washing, and ensuring safe food and water consumption. Vaccination is recommended for those travelling to high-risk areas or living in conditions where typhoid fever is endemic.

If contracted, typhoid fever is generally treated with antibiotics. Without prompt treatment, the infection can lead to serious complications like intestinal bleeding or perforation, which can be fatal. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for recovery and to prevent the spread of the infection to others.

Hantaviruses are a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents and can cause various disease syndromes in humans worldwide. Infection with any hantavirus can produce hantavirus disease in humans, with varying degrees of severity.

The most well-known diseases caused by hantaviruses are:

  1. Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS): Primarily found in the Americas, HPS is a severe, sometimes fatal, respiratory disease. After an incubation period of 1 to 5 weeks following exposure, early symptoms include fatigue, fever, and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups. As the disease progresses, it can lead to coughing, shortness of breath, and severe respiratory distress, often requiring mechanical ventilation in intensive care units.

  2. Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS): Mostly occurring in Europe and Asia, HFRS is characterized by fever, bleeding tendencies, and renal failure. The severity of HFRS can vary; some cases are relatively mild, while others can be life-threatening.

Transmission of hantaviruses to humans primarily occurs through inhalation of aerosolized virus particles from the urine, faeces, or saliva of infected rodents. Certain human activities that put individuals in contact with rodent-infested areas can increase the risk of exposure.

There are no specific treatments, cures, or vaccines for hantavirus infection. However, if the infection is recognized early and the patient receives medical care in an intensive care unit, they may do better. In these settings, patients can receive support for their lungs and kidneys and treatments for other complications.

Preventing hantavirus infection involves controlling rodent populations in and around the home, avoiding contact with rodent urine, droppings, saliva, and nesting materials, and ensuring proper ventilation when cleaning areas where rodent infestations may have occurred.

The Rat Tapeworm, scientifically known as Hymenolepis diminuta, is a parasitic worm that primarily infects rodents, particularly rats. Humans can also become infected, although such cases are relatively rare and are typically seen in children.

Infection occurs when a person accidentally ingests insects (like fleas or beetles) that are infected with the larval stage of the tapeworm. These insects often serve as intermediate hosts after consuming tapeworm eggs from the faeces of infected rodents. Once ingested by a human, the larvae develop into adult tapeworms in the intestine.

An infection with Hymenolepis diminuta in humans is called hymenolepiasis. The symptoms can vary but often include abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, and irritability. However, many cases can be asymptomatic, particularly if the number of worms in the intestines is small.

Diagnosis of a rat tapeworm infection involves detecting the eggs or segments of the tapeworm in stool samples. Treatment typically includes oral medication that targets the adult tapeworms, such as praziquantel or niclosamide.

Prevention of hymenolepiasis involves good hygiene practices, such as washing hands before eating and after using the toilet, as well as controlling rodent and insect populations in living environments to reduce the risk of exposure to the parasite.

Rat-bite fever is an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans through bites or scratches from infected rodents, or through contact with a rodent’s urine or mucous secretions. The disease can be caused by two different types of bacteria: Streptobacillus moniliformis, which is more common in North America and Europe, and Spirillum minus, found mostly in Asia.

Symptoms of rat-bite fever typically develop 3 to 10 days after exposure to an infected animal, but can sometimes take as long as 3 weeks to appear. Common symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, and a rash. If the infection is caused by Streptobacillus moniliformis, joint pain and swelling are also common symptoms. If Spirillum minus is the cause, there might be a relapsing fever and an ulcer at the site of the bite.

If left untreated, rat-bite fever can be serious or even fatal. Complications can include infections of the heart (endocarditis), infections of the brain (meningitis), pneumonia, and abscesses in internal organs.

The diagnosis of rat-bite fever is based on the symptoms and the history of rodent exposure. Laboratory tests can identify the bacteria, but this can be challenging.

Treatment typically involves antibiotics, such as penicillin, doxycycline, or cephalosporins. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for recovery.

Prevention of rat-bite fever involves avoiding contact with rodents, maintaining good hygiene practices, and seeking prompt medical attention if bitten or scratched by a rodent. In situations where contact with rodents is unavoidable, such as in certain occupational settings, wearing protective clothing and practising safe handling techniques can reduce the risk of infection.

Typhus is a group of infectious diseases caused by Rickettsia bacteria, which are transmitted to humans through external parasites such as (rodents’) fleas, lice, or mites. There are several types of typhus, each characterized by its mode of transmission and the type of Rickettsia species causing the infection. The main forms of typhus include:

  1. Epidemic Typhus (Louse-Borne Typhus): Caused by Rickettsia prowazekii and transmitted by the body louse. This form of typhus often occurs in conditions of overcrowding and poor hygiene, as seen in environments like refugee camps or during wars. Symptoms include high fever, headache, chills, a rash that typically begins on the trunk and spreads, and in severe cases, delirium. If untreated, it can be fatal.

  2. Endemic Typhus (Murine Typhus): Caused by Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia felis, it is transmitted by fleas from rodents, primarily rats. Symptoms are similar to those of epidemic typhus but usually less severe, including fever, headache, and rash.

  3. Scrub Typhus: Caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi, transmitted by chigger mites. It’s common in rural areas of Southeast Asia, Japan, and northern Australia. Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, and sometimes a scab at the site of the mite bite.

  4. Brill-Zinsser Disease: A reactivation of epidemic typhus that can occur years after the initial infection, often when the immune system is suppressed.

Typhus is diagnosed based on symptoms, history of exposure to the vectors, and confirmed through laboratory tests. Antibiotic treatment, particularly with doxycycline, is effective, especially when started early in the course of the disease.

Prevention of typhus involves avoiding contact with the vectors. This includes maintaining good personal hygiene, using insect repellents, and controlling rodent populations. In some areas, vaccination against certain types of typhus may be available.

Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM) is a viral infection caused by the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), which is a member of the Arenaviridae family.

This virus is primarily carried by rodents, most commonly the common house mouse. Humans can contract the virus through exposure to the urine, droppings, saliva, or nesting materials of infected rodents.

The symptoms of LCM can vary, but they typically begin with a flu-like illness, including fever, malaise, lack of appetite, muscle aches, headache, nausea, and vomiting. After a few days of recovery, some individuals may develop a second phase of illness characterized by neurological symptoms such as meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), or meningoencephalitis (inflammation of both the brain and its surrounding membranes). Symptoms in this phase may include stiff neck, headache, confusion, loss of coordination, and sensitivity to light.

Most cases of LCM are relatively mild, but severe infections can occur, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems and in pregnant women, where it can lead to serious complications for the unborn child.

LCM is diagnosed based on the symptoms, history of exposure to rodents, and confirmed through specific laboratory tests that detect the virus or antibodies against it in the blood or cerebrospinal fluid.

There is no specific treatment for LCM; care is generally supportive and aims to relieve symptoms and manage complications. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required.

Prevention of LCM revolves around controlling rodent populations in and around homes and maintaining hygienic practices to minimize contact with rodents and their excretions. This includes sealing up rodent entry points to homes, keeping food in rodent-proof containers, and using traps. Additionally, individuals working in facilities where rodents are housed or handled, such as pet stores or laboratories, should practice good hygiene and use protective equipment to reduce the risk of infection.

Rodent Scratches

Rodent diseases can also infect humans by getting scratched by a mouse, rat, or other rodents. Rodents carry different diseases that can be transmitted to humans once their skin gets penetrated by a scratch.

A scratch will allow harmful diseases and infections to spread through the skin openings. The infectious radicals can enter the bloodstream and spread all over the person’s body.

Leptospirosis, rat-bite fever, and Well’s disease are some of the most common rodent diseases you can get from rodent scratches.

Rodent Urine

If you are dealing with a rodent infestation, specifically rats and mice, their urine is the main and most common source of rodent diseases. Mice and rats use urine to map out a trail for their family and friends to available food sources.

Urine pillars are the main sign of mice. It happens with constant urination in one spot over a long time and combines with the dirt to create pillars that look like small stalactites.

The following are the methods by which rodent diseases can infect humans:

  • Contaminated air – Rodent-borne diseases can be contracted if you inhale dust contaminated by rodent urine.
  • Contaminated food – Diseases can also be contracted through contaminated water and food. It happens when a mouse or rat urinates on a water supply or food source.
  • Direct contact – Humans can also catch diseases once they come into direct contact with rodent urine, either by touching the urine itself or touching things contaminated by it.
  • Open wound – You might be at risk of catching a rodent-borne disease if you have an open scratch or wound not dressed properly that comes into contact with rodent urine. Rat-bite fever, Well’s disease, hantavirus, and leptospirosis are the diseases you can potentially catch from rodent urine.


When it comes to rodent-borne diseases, prevention is always better than cure. This is best done by making sure that they don’t gain access to your home in the first place.

Aside from the usual preventative measures, it is also recommended to hire professional specialists such as Owl Pest Control Dublin, who can stop an infestation before it even happens.

Call for the Experts in Pest Control

Contact the experts on pest control Dublin and experience the benefits of rodent infestation control for your home or business!

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