Rat bites and scratches can result in disease and rat-bite fever. Rat urine is responsible for the spread of leptospirosis, which can result in liver and kidney damage. It can also be contracted through handling or inhalation of scat. Complications include renal and liver failure, as well as cardiovascular problems.
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), a viral infectious disease, is transmitted through the saliva and urine of rats. Some individuals experience long-term effects of lymphocytic choriomeningitis, while others experience only temporary discomfort.
One of the most historically dangerous rat-borne diseases is the bubonic plague, also called “Black Plague,” and its variants. Transfer occurs when fleas from the rats bite human beings. Fleas transported on rats are considered responsible for this plague during the Middle Ages, which killed millions. From the transmission of bubonic plague to typhus and hantavirus, rat infestations can prove harmful to human health.
Rats also are a potential source of allergens. Their droppings, dander and shed hair can cause people to sneeze and experience other allergic reactions.
Some species of rats such as the cotton rat or rice rat are known carriers of hantavirus. Norway rats and roof rats are not known transmitters of hantavirus. Victims may be debilitated and can experience difficulty breathing. Hantavirus is transmitted to humans when they inhale airborne particles from rodent droppings, urine or carcasses that have been disturbed.
The first symptoms of the virus can be mistaken for the flu. Patients then suffer breathing difficulties that may prove fatal if not treated effectively and immediately.
In order to avoid hantavirus, all mouse feces, nest materials and dead rodents must be removed from the home. Spray suspected areas thoroughly with disinfectant before sweeping to avoid having anything become airborne. Use gloves to handle rodent carcasses or droppings and a respirator must be worn with functioning cartridges. Buildings should be aired out following an infestation. Not all rodents have been found to carry hantavirus. Deer mice, cotton rats, rice rats and white-footed mice are the most common transmitters. However, everyone should use caution in dealing with rodents or rodent infestations and contact a pest control professional.
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