The average homeowner wouldn’t usually label a rodent infestation as a potential health threat, let alone a medical emergency. Usually, one immediately jumps to strategically positioning traps or discovering potential entry points and appropriately sealing those holes, perhaps contacting a pest management company on proper techniques.
Yet, the mice and rats entering your home can harbor a number of diseases that are easily communicable to humans. Classified as “vector-borne,” these are latent organisms residing within the animal without it displaying any exterior symptoms. For most, identifying a potential outbreak is virtually impossible. Thus, we break-down the three most notable diseases that rodents may transmit to humans and how to properly assess the risk.
Hantavirus/Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome
The most common disease within the rodent-to-human pathway is Hantavirus, specifically Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. The deer mouse, a common perpetrator in U.S. home invasions located near wooded areas, hosts the virus without affecting its own body. Especially during the winter months, this rodent will take shelter in your home, seeking warmth and any open food sources. As it begins to drop feces and urinate throughout your living spaces, your risk for contracting the disease grows.
Humans are able to contract the disease through any contact with the rodent, including the airborne particles surrounding its urine or nesting materials. The disease’s initial phases very much resemble flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches, fever, and exhaustion. As such, it’s important to receive proper medical care if you have a known rodent problem. Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome can be fatal, so waste no time receiving a proper diagnosis.
Much like Hantavirus, humans contract Leptospirosis through contact with the inflicted rodent’s urine and other bodily fluids. The bacteria are entirely capable of surviving beyond a few weeks, so it’s entirely possible that your food or liquids stored in the home will carry the bacteria. A rodent can urinate on your clothing as well, transmitting the disease through the fibers and coming into contact with your skin.
Leptospirosis can be mistaken for a host of other illnesses because of its initial symptoms, ranging from a high fever to diarrhea. If left untreated beyond the first four weeks, the disease may spread through the body and cause kidney or liver failure. Always consult a medical professional when handling rodents in your home.
The bacteria causing Tularemia is particularly notable due to its emergence in the animal’s tissue, often affecting humans when handling a rodent’s dead carcass. An infected rodent can pass along the disease through one’s skin, causing an ulcer to later appear at the site of handling the animal. These particles can damage any exposed mucus membrane in the body including the eyes or lungs via inhalation.
Immediately upon contact with a rodent corpse, you should relay all relevant information to your doctor. Diagnosing Tularemia can be challenging for medical personnel on account of its rarity and resemblance to other ailments. Providing this critical detail can aid in this analysis and help the doctor prescribe the required antibiotics to cure the disease.