The household rat species, such as the roof rat are very common. Rats can be more than a simple nuisance at home. These annoying little critters are also responsible for over 70 known diseases that can endanger- and even kill- humans.
Rats invade households in their quest for warm areas to live in. These critters will then chew and gnaw on furniture and fixtures in the home, causing severe property and structural damage. On top of all these, rats can also spread deadly diseases with their feces, urine, and bites, to the residents of the infested household through the air, water, and food. Most of these rat-borne diseases are serious, and can even be fatal for those affected.
The Most Common Rat-Borne Diseases
Murine Typhus: This rat-borne disease is transmitted to humans through rat fleas. The rats, which are infected with flies, are found throughout the year, especially in humid tropical places. For temperate regions, flea-infested rats are common during summer months. Murine typhus is an infectious condition with symptoms similar to typhus due to Rickettsia typhi. Some of the symptoms of this disease are: flu-like symptoms, high fever, headache, dry cough, vomiting, nausea, and joint pain.
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS): This is a deadly disease which is transmitted by infected rodents through their feces, urine, or saliva. This rat-borne disease is usually transmitted to humans through the inhalation of the dust from rat feces. Hantavirus can lead to cardiovascular shock and renal failure. If this disease is not treated immediately, it can even lead to death. The primary strategy for preventing HPS is rodent control in and around the household.
Leptospirosis: This is a bacterial disease that can affect both humans and animals. Leptospirosis is typically transmitted through the urine of rats. When a person is infected with this rat-borne disease, there can be a wide range of symptoms including severe headache, high fever, vomiting, yellow skin and eyes, diarrhea, rash, and abdominal and muscle pain. This disease can also lead to liver and kidney failure, as well as heart problems. Most of the reported cases of Leptospirosis result in death.
Salmonella infection: Salmonella infection causes typhoid-like disease in mice. In humans, Salmonella Typhimurium does not cause serious diseases as S. Typhi, and it is not usually fatal. Some of the symptoms of salmonella infection in humans include diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, vomiting, and nausea. This rat-borne disease can be fatal if it is not treated immediately with antibiotics. To prevent contracting this disease, people must wash their hands with soap and water after handling rats or cleaning mouse traps.
Rat-bite fever: This is a systemic bacterial illness which can be transmitted through rat bites or scratch. It can also be contracted by humans if they ingest food or water that was contaminated with rat droppings.
How To Avoid Health Hazards Caused By Rats
If you want to avoid contracting any of the rat-borne diseases, you must prevent rat infestation in your household. The first and most important thing you need to do is to stop any rats from getting inside your house. Here are some simple steps to prevent rat infestation and ultimately avoid the health hazards and diseases caused by rats:
Step 1: Do not give rats any reason to infest your property. This means removing food sources, water, and other items which they can use as shelter.
Step 2: The next thing you need to do is to deprive them of any entry to your house. Seal up holes inside and outside your property. You must check inside, behind, and under refrigerators, stoves, closets, pipes under sinks, kitchen cabinets and so on.
Step 3: Observe proper hygiene at home. You must clean your property regularly. Remove food sources and nesting site, and keep your food, including pet food, in thick plastic or metal containers with very tight lids. You must also clean up any spilled food immediately and wash the dishes and cooking utensils after use.
Step 4: Start using pest control solutions such as traps and poisons. You can set the traps in areas where you see droppings and trails. Snap traps usually work best, especially if you use peanut butter as bait. You must also remember to check your traps everyday, and remove and get rid of all dead trapped rats. For serious rat problems, you can employ a professional rat exterminator to handle your rat problems at home.
Kris Lim is a health advocate who aims to spread awareness regarding the dangers of rodent infestation. She also contributes useful information about rodent-borne diseases for pest control Houston companies.