Rodents and Disease

Rats and Disease

Rats are one of the most formidable disease carriers on the planet. Scientists have nicknamed rats “germ elevators” because they gather parasites and other microorganisms from contact with raw sewage and other disease-laden sources and carry them to surface areas inhabited by people. Rats are often carriers of numerous types of bacteria and viruses in their bloodstream and the fleas, lice, ticks, and mites that live in their fur can transfer those blood-borne illnesses to people.   It is estimated that rats are capable of transferring at least 35 different diseases to humans and livestock including rabies, leptospirosis, murine typhus, spotted fever, lassa fever, polio, meningitis, trichinosis, rat-bite fever, salmonellosis (food poisoning) and hanta virus.

Rats and Rabies

When discussing rodent diseases, you cannot ignore rabies, a viral infection of the central nervous system that can affect all warm-blooded animals. When rodent populations increase, so does rabies activity. All pet owners should make sure their dog or cat is up to date on their vaccine. Signs of rabies include loss of appetite, fever, aggressiveness, paralysis, unusual crying or howling, drooling of saliva, and eventually seizures coma, and death. Domestic animals usually die within one to five days.

Rabies can be prevented in humans with the use of a rabies immune serum after a bite or exposure from a suspect rabid animal. However, once signs or symptoms appear from exposure, usually two to twelve weeks later, there is no cure or treatment and there is a 100% mortality rate.

The Bubonic Plague

In the 1300s, the bubonic plague or Black Death swept through Europe and Asia, killing approximately 25 million people, a third of the population of Europe. Symptoms included painful lumps called buboes that filled with blood and turned black as the victim died. In 1894, Dr. Alexandre Yerin determined the cause of the disease. The rat flea, which clings to a rat’s fur and feeds on the blood of an infected rat, picked up the plague bacteria and transferred it to people when feeding on human blood. The plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, is named in his honor. The rats may not have directly killed all of these people, but they were the ones that provided the infected blood and the mode of transportation for the fleas. This type of disease transfer from an animal host to a carrier to people is the same for Lyme disease. An infected deer tick transfers the disease from the blood of mice and voles to the blood of people. Today, there are periodically small outbreaks of plague in Asia but we have the antibiotics to treat it.

Prevention is the Best Treatment

One of the best ways to prevent the diseases of rodents from spreading to your household is to prevent them from entering your home. Cowleys Pest Services is your local pest control professional, serving homes in Edison, Lakewood, Woodbridge, Trenton, Brick, Toms River, Old Bridge, Middletown, Princeton Junction, Piscataway and nearby New Jersey. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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