It’s difficult to stay healthy during the winter, especially with the flu and common colds on the rise. Unfortunately, most people don’t consider the threat that rodents pose to our health and property at this time of year. Every winter, an estimated 21 million homes in the United States are invaded by rodents, and an infestation can cause more than just a headache for homeowners.
During the colder months, rodents like mice and rats seek food, warmth, and shelter indoors, frequently entering homes through small cracks and crevices. The real concern, however, is that once inside, these pests can spread diseases and cause significant property damage.
Feces from mice and rats can spread bacteria, contaminate food sources, and cause allergic reactions in humans. When feces become dry, it can be dangerous to those who breathe it in. Furthermore, rodent droppings can transmit diseases and viruses such as those listed below.
Hantavirus is a potentially fatal disease spread by rodents, most notably the white-footed deer mouse. People become infected when they come into contact with infected rodent urine, droppings, or saliva, and the chances increase when they are in close proximity to areas where rodents are actively living. Ten people became ill and three died after being exposed to Hantavirus-infected deer mice while staying in tent cabins at Yosemite National Park last year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, early symptoms of the disease include fatigue, fever, and muscle aches (CDC). Headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal pain are also possible.
The Bubonic Plague
The Plague, also known as the “Black Death,” is a highly contagious and often fatal disease that killed one-third of Europe’s population during the Middle Ages. Plague is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected rodent flea and can cause fever, headache, and painfully swollen lymph nodes. In 2012, a Colorado girl became ill while camping and became infected with the Plague.
Salmonellosis is a type of food poisoning caused by rodent feces, which is spread primarily through the consumption of contaminated food. Diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain are some of the symptoms. According to WebMD, approximately 40,000 cases of Salmonella are reported in the United States each year.
Rat-Bite Fever is a disease caused by the bite of a rat.
Rat-bite fever (RBF) is a potentially fatal infectious disease transmitted by infected rodents or through the consumption of rodent-contaminated food. According to the CDC, symptoms typically appear 3-10 days after being exposed to an infected source and include fever, vomiting, headaches, rash, and muscle pain.
Rodents, in addition to posing health risks, can be a significant property risk because they have a proclivity to destroy insulation in attics and can chew through wallboards, cardboard, wood, and even electrical wiring. In fact, rodents are responsible for up to 25% of all house fires in the United States each year.
Rodents, with their rapid reproduction rates, can quickly go from being unnoticed to causing a full-fledged infestation. Homeowners should consider prevention as their first line of defense against these pests and take measures to keep them out of the house.
For more information on rodent prevention, read this article. Additionally, homeowners should be aware of other rodent signs, such as scampering sounds in ceilings, droppings found in undisturbed areas, or partially eaten food in the kitchen. If an infestation is suspected, a pest professional can provide the necessary expertise and knowledge to resolve the issue.