Do house mice carry disease?
Well, as mentioned above, the simple answer is yes. Around the world, rodents like mice and rats are known to carry over 35 different types of diseases. As a matter of fact, one of the most notorious plagues in history was a rat-borne disease called the bubonic plague or “Black Plague.” It was a multi-century pandemic that swept across Asia and Europe and killed more than 25 million people, or around one third of the population.
Rat bite or scratches can cause leptospirosis and Hantavirus. Their urine can also cause leptospirosis, while their bite can carry viruses that can cause rat-bite fever. Complications to these include liver and renal failure, and even cardiovascular problems.
Here are the different ways rodents can spread diseases:
- Rat bite or scratch
- Unsafe handling of dead rats
- Eating or drinking food or water contaminated with rat urine, feces, hair, or saliva
- Breathing dust contaminated with rat urine or feces
- Through fleas, mites, and ticks that live on them
Here are the common diseases mice and rodents carry
Diseases transmitted by rodents are categorized into two: direct and indirect transmission. The former refers to the diseases caused by direct exposure to rat-infected bites, urine, and feces. The latter refers to the diseases transmitted to humans via arthropod vectors, such as fleas, mites, and ticks.
Diseases directly transmitted to humans
Leptospirosis – This bacterial disease affects both humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria called genus Leptospira and can be transmitted by coming in contact with contaminated waters such as wading through floodwaters or drinking contaminated water.
The bacteria enter the body through the skin (scratch or open wounds) or mucous membranes (mouth, nose, or eyes). This can cause headaches, chills, high fever, diarrhea, muscle aches, abdominal pains, red eyes, and even jaundice. Children, elderly, and immunocompromised individuals are at higher risk of mortality from the disease.
Hantavirus – Better known as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), this viral disease is spread mainly by rodents in three ways, rat bite, direct contact with rat urine or feces, or inhaling dust contaminated with rat urine or feces.
Early symptoms of this disease include muscle aches and fatigue. Severe cases of Hantaviruses are possibly fatal. As soon as the virus spreads, it can cause shortness of breath due to fluid accumulation in the lungs and lung congestion. It can also cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS).
There is no treatment, cure, or vaccine for this virus. Rather, treatment usually includes respiratory support (mechanical ventilation and intubation) and intensive care treatment.
Rat-bite Fever – RBF is an acute, febrile disease caused by bacteria–carrying rodents. It is usually passed from rodents to humans through bites or scratches, rodent urine, or mucous secretion. There are two types of bacteria that cause the disease:
- Streptobacillus moniliformis (only reported in North America)
- Spirillum minus (common in Asia)
Subsequently, contact with surfaces contaminated with either bacteria, through skin with scratches, scrapes, open wounds, mouth, nose, eyes, and consuming food and drinks contaminated with rodent urine and droppings can also cause this disease.
Symptoms include fever, headache, body and joint pains, vomiting, and rashes. If left untreated, this can be a serious or even fatal disease.
Salmonellosis – Amphibians, reptiles, and feeder rodents naturally carry bacteria called Salmonella in their intestines. Ingesting food or water contaminated with the bacteria (through urine or droppings) can cause diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, and fever.
Diseases indirectly transmitted to humans
Plague – This disease is linked to rats and the human environment. Caused by the bacteria called Yersinia pestis, many plagues have wiped out large proportions of population around the world throughout history. The cycle of plagues starts with rodents, it’s then transmitted to fleas taht suck the rodents’ blood, and is then transmitted to humans through flea bites.
Plague is also transmitted by contaminated animals by coming in contact with their fluids or tissues. Plague can also become airborne as infected humans’ cough particles enter the air (pneumonic plague).
Colorado Tick Fever – This rare viral disease is spread by the bite of an infected tick called Rocky Mountain wood tick after it has taken a blood meal from a woodrat. The disease is life-threatening. This is usually common in Western Canada and Western United States.
Symptoms include chills, fever, headaches and body aches, and feeling sluggish. Some may also experience abdominal pains, sore throat, skin rash, and vomiting. In rare cases, symptoms can affect the central nervous system and cause confusion and a stiff neck.
There are no known treatments, medications, or vaccines for this disease.
Rabies virus – Though dogs and wild carnivores like bats are the usual carrier of rabies, rodents can contract the virus as well. Rabies in rats however, is quite rare.
Tularemia – This rare infectious disease is caused by bacteria called Francisella tularensis. It is often found in rodents, rabbits, and hares. Symptoms of this disease vary depending on where the bacteria enter the body, but it is always accompanied by fever that can be as high as 104 ˚ F.
Oculoglandular disease happens when the bacteria enters through the eyes. This can cause irritation and inflammation of the eyes, as well as swelling of the lymph glands near the ear.
Oropharyngeal infection happens when you eat or drink something contaminated by the bacteria. It can cause sore throat, tonsillitis, mouth ulcers, and swelling of lymph glands near the neck.
Pneumonic infection is the most serious form of Tularemia, where symptoms include chest pain, a cough, and difficulty breathing.
Though life-threatening, tularemia disease can be treated with antibiotics.
Though there are indeed lots of effective DIY and home solutions for dealing with rats, it would be best to let expert pest exterminators handle rat problems in your household, especially if you are dealing with colonies. These exterminators are fully equipped and experienced to handle pest removal safely and effectively, as well as keep your property safe from further infestations.
Call AccuRat and book your free inspection today
You can always contact us when you are dealing with a rodent infestation, even if you are unsure about the species. You can do it directly through our website or call a member of our staff and we will send you a technician as soon as possible. Don’t let rodents control your life, let us control and get rid of the infestation. We stand behind our work offering you a professional service as well as a warranty after each treatment.