Health Risks From Rat Disease
Many people are aware that rats spread disease. I am not a
doctor or an expert on zoonotic diseases, so I'm just
repeating some other information that I've found on the web
about rat diseases, as collected from the Centers for
Disease Control and other sources. I list seven of the more
serious diseases below, but it's my understanding that rats
are associated with many more diseases, many not so serious.
I can personally say that in my experience working as a rat
removal specialist, I've never contracted a serious disease
from contact with rats or rat feces. I do, however, always
wear protection, and you can see me in the photos on this
website wearing gloves, a filter mask, and often biohazard
suits. I always wash my hands. My anecdotal thought is that
health risks from wild rats and other rodents like mice are
relatively rare. But just as I wear a seatbelt in the car, I
am careful around rats and rat feces.
An infection of the brain occurring in association with an
increase in the number of white blood cells that are
associated with infection by worms that penetrate into the
body. The rat lung worm is called angiostrongylus
cantonensis, and can be contracted by ingesting (even from
hands) the worms from rat feces.
Rat-bite fever (RBF)
A systemic bacterial illness caused by Streptobacillus
moniliformis that can be acquired through the bite or
scratch of a rodent or the ingestion of food or water
contaminated with rat feces.
A bacterial disease that affects humans and animals who come
into contact with rat poop. It is caused by bacteria of the
genus Leptospira. In humans it causes a wide range of
symptoms including high fever, headache, chills, muscle
aches, and vomiting, and may include jaundice (yellow skin
and eyes), red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or a rash. If
the disease is not treated, the patient could develop kidney
damage, meningitis, liver failure, and respiratory distress.
In rare cases death occurs.
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)
A deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through
urine, droppings, or saliva. Humans can contract the disease
when they breathe in aerosolized virus. Although rare, HPS
is potentially deadly.
Caused by infection with R. typhi. It occurs worldwide and
is transmitted to humans by rat fleas.
Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium
In humans S. Typhimurium does not cause as severe disease as
S. Typhi, and is not normally fatal. The disease is
characterized by diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and
nausea, and generally lasts up to 7 days. Unfortunately, in
immunocompromized people, that is the elderly, young, or
people with depressed immune systems, Salmonella infections
are often fatal if they are not treated with antibiotics.
A zoonotic disease, circulating mainly among small rodents
and their fleas. Caused by Yersinia pestis, which belongs to
the family Enterobacteriaceae. Without treatment, the plague
kills about 66% of infected humans within 4 days. Swollen
lymph nodes (buboes) especially occur in the armpit and
groin in persons suffering from bubonic plague. Read more
about Biology of Black Rat.
Help! I've been infected with rat disease!
Well, don't jump to any conclusions. Medicine is a tricky
topic. I, and amazingly, many medical doctors that I've
spoken with in my life, have a lot to learn, and are
ultimately unaware of many aspects of the human body and
pathogens. But, if you are sick, I still of course do
recommend that you see a doctor, and you can cite rodents as
a potential cause of the symptoms you are experiencing.
Again, it's my general thought that health risks from rats,
mice, and other rodents are relatively low, so long as you
are careful. A mask to protect against respiratory diseases,
gloves against those that are contracted via direct contact
with wild rat feces.
MANY OF THE SAME DISEASES APPLY TO MICE
Although I wrote this site with rats in mind, such as the
Roof Rat and Norway Rat, the same principles apply to other
rodents, such as the house mouse. Mice are very similar to
rats, they're just smaller. Email me if you have any
questions about mouse diseases, health risks associated with
mice, bacterial disease, virus and viral diseases, rodent
disease and risks to health.
Read more about rats:
Do cats keep rats away?
Do rats carry rabies?
Can Rats Chew Through Wires in a
Does car insurance cover rat
Do rats live in more urban areas, or wild areas?
Rats in New York subway
How do you remove a rat stuck in a dumpster?
Why are there so many rats in NYC?