When you find a rodent inside your house, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you keep a dirty home. There are actually many reasons why common household pests, like mice and rats, enter homes. During winter, for example, rodents seek warmth wherever they can, and if they find just a tiny hole that they can use to gain entry into your toasty house, they will. You should also be aware that humans and rodents have a commensal or symbiotic relationship, especially since rodents like the same things that humans do.
But no one wants to be taken advantage of by rodents because these creatures are very destructive. Not only will rats and mice eat garbage or stored food, but they’ll also gnaw on designer shoes and bags, papers and other important documents, walls, ceilings, and just about anything that they can get their tiny paws on.
Apart from the destruction that rodents can bring, you do not want them anywhere near you or your loved ones because they also pass on potentially life-threatening diseases. Below are three of the most dangerous infections that rodents cause.
1. Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome
Hantavirus causes a deadly condition known as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, and the cotton rat and rice rat are the most well-known carriers of the virus. HPS presents with flu-like symptoms. As the infection progresses, the infected person can suffer renal or kidney failure, as well as respiratory difficulties. Without medical intervention, HPS can be deadly.
The hantavirus is transmitted through contact with an infected rodent’s feces, urine and other bodily fluids. Humans can get the virus through the inhalation of microscopic particles from infected rodent feces, waste or carcass.
2. Salmonella enterica (Food Poisoning)
There are three main kinds of Salmonella, and the type that is often spread by rodents is Salmonella typhimurium. This is one of the leading causes of food poisoning, wherein victims experience abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea. If you’re thinking that food poisoning isn’t that bad, well, in a way, you’re right. Some people overcome food poisoning with a little rest and antibiotics. However, there are other individuals who have weaker immune systems. Very young kids, very old people, or individuals with depressed immune systems could die from the salmonella virus if they are not treated right away.
The causative agent can be transmitted to humans through fecal contamination. Once rodent feces taint food and water, these should be thrown out. Be careful when using utensils and drinking glasses as well. If you see these items near rodent droppings, wash thoroughly and, if possible, sterilize things using boiling water before using.
Leptospirosis is caused by the spirochete Leptospira, and the illness is characterized by severe headache, high fever, muscle pain, chills, diarrhea, rashes, and abdominal pain, among others. The bacteria sometimes causes jaundice too, wherein the affected individual experiences yellowing of the eyes and skin. A person who contracts the disease should seek help as soon as possible. Ignoring the symptoms will not make them go away. Without proper medical care, the infected person can develop more serious symptoms, such as: renal or kidney damage, meningitis, respiratory difficulties, and liver problems.
The mode of transmission of leptospirosis is through direct contact with the urine of an infected animal. The urine remains infectious as long as it is moist. Many outbreaks are caused by people’s exposure to flood water that’s been infected by animal urine.
The most effective preventive measure is to protect your property from rodents. In case you do find rats and mice in your home, it’s recommended that you immediately employ measures to get rid of these pests. Don’t wait for them to reproduce inside your home, especially since these creatures are very prolific breeders.
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Claire Brent is a freelancer and a health worker. Her articles are usually about preventive pest control in Phoenix and the health problems that common household pests bring.