Diseases Caused By Vermin
Mice and rats have lived parasitically with humans for
thousands of years. The amount of food
that they have eaten or despoiled probably goes into the millions of tons. However, the greatest threat posed by these
vermin is their potential for spreading disease, and not only to us, but to our
pets as well. The mice most frequently
found in homes are the house mouse and the deer mouse. Rats ordinarily come in two varieties – the
Norwegian rat and the black rat. The
latter is most famous for spreading bubonic plague and helping to cause the
Black Death in Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries. Although plague is uncommon in most parts of
North America (it crops up periodically in the American Southwest), rodents can
spread several other serious diseases.
It is a disgusting fact, but mice will produce about 80
droppings per day. Basically, wherever
they scamper, they will leave droppings.
They will also leave urine, which you probably will not be able to
detect. Both of these excretions can
contain salmonella bacteria, and if you or your pet eats food so contaminated,
you will suffer from this gastric illness.
Even if you throw out food that shows signs of rodents, you can also
pick up the bacteria on your hands, and you can become ill from salmonella if
you eat or drink before washing your hands.
This ailment is not caused by rodent droppings, but by the
ticks that rodents, especially deer mice, carry. Lyme disease is a serious illness that can
cause fever, joint pain, and headache.
Sometimes, it can cause arthritis and damage to the heart. Ticks must be attached to you for several
days before you become infected, and often a red ring will form around the
original bite. However, sometimes the ring
is not present, and if you exhibit any of the above symptoms after finding a
tick on yourself, see a doctor immediately for antibiotic treatment. Lyme disease has been linked with chronic
fatigue syndrome, too.
Hantavirus is a serious, sometimes fatal disease spread by
rodents. This disease can be produced by
contact with rodent feces or urine, but also by being bitten by an infected rat
or mouse. Hantavirus can cause serious
lung infection or even kidney problems, and as it is a virus, will not be
touched by antibiotics. While many cases
of Hantavirus are only thought to be flu, and pass through without doing
serious harm, some will need hospitalization.
Fortunately, a significant proportion of the population appears to have
immunity to this virus, especially those of European origin.
Rat Bite Fever
Rat bite fever is caused by one of two bacteria, so will be
able to respond to antibiotic treatment.
It is caused, as its name suggests, usually by a rat bite, although it
can also be caught by exposure to droppings or urine. This illness causes fever, inflamed joints,
rash, and even ulcerations near the bite site.
It can also cause headaches and vomiting. In untreated, severe cases, it can cause
heart damage. Although the disease will usually run its course without treatment, there is the possibility
of a rare fatality, and without antibiotics, it can take a year or more to be
free of the symptoms.