Rats are effective transmitters of disease to humans causing bacteria and viruses. One of the most common is Leptospira, which causes leptospirosis and Weil's syndrome. The Lassa virus, another common virus spread by rats, can cause Lassa fever in humans.
Rats can be a serious nuisance in the home. Not only can they cause damage to your property but they also pose a serious health threat to anyone who comes into contact with them.
This article gives you information about the many diseases associated with rats which are transmitted to humans. There are preventable measures to avoid getting infected, as well as steps to take when symptoms of disease start to manifest.
Droppings, urine, as well as the saliva of many rodents carry disease causing pathogens. This includes:
- Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)
A species of hantavirus causes HPS. Rodents can easily contaminate their immediate surroundings with this respiratory disease. This virus is commonly transmitted by inhaling dust particles from rat urine and / or droppings.
Caused by Leptospira bacteria, this disease is spread by eating food and / or water contaminated with rodent urine.
- Murine Typhus
Rat fleas are the causative agent of Murine Typhus. The bacteria, Rickettsia typhi is transmitted through fleas. It is usually prevalent in temperate regions, especially during the summer months.
- Salmonella Enterica Serovar Typhimurium
Caused by the bacteria, Salmonella typhimurium, it's not as fatal as Salmonella typhi, but can be deadly if left untreated. Immuno-compromised individuals are more vulnerable and it can cause serious diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.
The causative pathogen of Rickettsialpox is Rickettsia akari and is transmitted by mites that feed on infected mice and rats. Humans become infected when they are bitten by a mite that has become a carrier of the bacteria (usually after feasting on an infected rodent). Infection causes flu like symptoms such as fever, chills, achy muscles, and rashes all around the body.
- Eosinophilic Meningitis
Eosinophilic Meningitis is caused by a parasitic lung roundworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis). It infects a rat's pulmonary arteries. The larvae are usually passed on through snails. These worms enter the human body when snails are eaten raw or undercooked. They travel to the central nervous system and infect the brain. This triggers a surge in white blood cell eosinophils to combat the foreign body, thus the name Eosinophilic Meningitis.
- Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS)
Several species of the Hantaan virus can cause HFRS. The disease spreads through direct contact with an infected rat's urine or droppings as well as from a rat bite (saliva).
- Lassa Fever
Caused by the Lassa virus, this pathogen is spread through contact with rat droppings, urine, as well as bite wounds. West African countries are known to have one of the highest infection rates, ranging from 300,000 to 500,000 annually.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, muscle fatigue, swelling, etc. Mucosal bleeding and conjunctivitis also manifests in infected patients.
- Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (LCM)
Arenavirus causes LCM and infects the membranes surrounding the human brain. Initial symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, headache and muscle aches. The second phase of symptoms include those similar to that of meningitis.
The plague is a deadly bacterial infection caused by Yersinia pestis. It is spread to humans through the bite of infected fleas. It is believed to be the cause of the Black Death, a disease that killed more than 25 million people in Europe during the 14th century.
Other diseases such as Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever, Rat Bite Fever and Salmonellosis are also caused by rats. South American and Tularemia are further examples. They are spread through rat mites, fleas, droppings, saliva, or urine. It is important to keep your home rodent proof by checking areas where they could possibly hide or set up a nest and travel to and from your house.
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Created by Dr Toby Bateson for HammerTechnologiesLtd.com