Diseases Directly Transmitted by Rodents

Diseases Directly Transmitted by Rodents Found in North America – Content Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you believe you have been in contact with any of the disease listed below contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at 800-232-4636

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

Rodent(s) involved: Deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), Cotton rat (Sigmodon Hispidus), Rice rat (Oryzomys palustris), White-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus)

Agent: Virus

Where the disease occurs:Throughout most of North and South America

How the disease spreads

  • Breathing in dust that is contaminated with rodent urine or droppings
  • Direct contact with rodents or their uring and droppings
  • Bite wounds, although this does not happen frequently

Signs & Symptoms for Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

Due to the small number of HPS cases, the “incubation time” is not positively known. However, on the basis of limited information, it appears that symptoms may develop between 1 and 5 weeks after exposure to fresh urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents.

Early Symptoms

Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups—thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal.

There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. About half of all HPS patients experience these symptoms.

Late Symptoms

Four to 10 days after the initial phase of illness, the late symptoms of HPS appear. These include coughing and shortness of breath, with the sensation of, as one survivor put it, a “…tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face” as the lungs fill with fluid.

HPS can be fatal. It has a mortality rate of 38%.

Preventing Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

Eliminate or minimize contact with rodents in your home, workplace, or campsite. If rodents don’t find that where you are is a good place for them to be, then you’re less likely to come into contact with them. Seal up holes and gaps in your home or garage. Place traps in and around your home to decrease rodent infestation. Clean up any easy-to-get food.

Recent research results show that many people who became ill with HPS developed the disease after having been in frequent contact with rodents and/or their droppings around a home or a workplace. On the other hand, many people who became ill reported that they had not seen rodents or rodent droppings at all. Therefore, if you live in an area where the carrier rodents are known to live, try to keep your home, vacation place, workplace, or campsite clean.

For more information on how you can prevent rodent infestations, the following information is available on the CDC Rodents site.

Additional Information: Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

Leptospirosis

Rodent(s) involved: Rodents and other animals

Agent: Bacteria

Where the disease occurs: Worldwide

How the disease spreads

  • Eating food or drinking water contaminated with urine from infected animals
  • Contact through the skin or mucous membranes (such as inside the nose) with water or soil that is contaminated with the urine from infected animals

Signs and Symptoms

In humans, Leptospirosis can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
  • Red eyes
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash

Many of these symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases. In addition, some infected persons may have no symptoms at all.

The time between a person’s exposure to a contaminated source and becoming sick is 2 days to 4 weeks. Illness usually begins abruptly with fever and other symptoms. Leptospirosis may occur in two phases:

  • after the first phase (with fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, or diarrhea) the patient may recover for a time but become ill again.
  • if a second phase occurs, it is more severe; the person may have kidney or liver failure or meningitis. This phase is also called Weil’s disease.

The illness lasts from a few days to 3 weeks or longer. Without treatment, recovery may take several months.

Additional Information: Leptospirosis

Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis (LCM)

Rodent(s) involved: House mouse (Mus musculus)

Agent: Virus

Where the disease occurs: Worldwide

How the disease spreads

  • Breathing in dust that is contaminated with rodent urine or droppings
  • Direct contact with rodents or their urine and droppings
  • Bite wounds, although this does not happen frequently

Individuals become infected with LCMV after exposure to fresh urine, droppings, saliva, or nesting materials. Transmission can also occur when these materials are directly introduced into broken skin, the nose, the eyes, or the mouth, or presumably, via the bite of an infected rodent. Person-to-person transmission has not been reported, with the exception of vertical transmission from infected mother to fetus. Recent investigations indicate that organ transplantation may also be a means of transmission.

What are the symptoms of LCM?

Some people infected with LCMV do not become ill. For infected persons who do become ill, onset of symptoms usually occurs 8-13 days after being exposed to the virus. A characteristic biphasic febrile illness then follows. The initial phase, which may last as long as a week, typically begins with any or all of the following symptoms: fever, malaise, lack of appetite, muscle aches, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Other symptoms that appear less frequently include sore throat, cough, joint pain, chest pain, testicular pain, and parotid (salivary gland) pain. Following a few days of recovery, the second phase of the disease occurs, consisting of symptoms of meningitis (for example, fever, headache, and a stiff neck) or characteristics of encephalitis (for example, drowsiness, confusion, sensory disturbances, and/or motor abnormalities, such as paralysis). LCMV has also been known to cause acute hydrocephalus (increased fluid on the brain), which often requires surgical shunting to relieve increased intracranial pressure. In rare instances, infection results in myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord) and presents with symptoms such as muscle weakness, paralysis, or changes in body sensation. An association between LCMV infection and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscles) has been suggested.

Prevention

If you have a rodent infestation in and around your home, take the following precautions to reduce the risk of LCMV infection:

  • Seal up rodent entry holes or gaps with steel wool, lath metal, or caulk.
  • Trap rats and mice by using an appropriate snap trap.
  • Clean up rodent food sources and nesting sites and take precautions when cleaning rodent-infected areas. See recommendations for cleaning rodent-infested areas.

Additional Information: Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis

 

Plague

Rodent(s) involved: Wild rodents, including rock squirrels, prarie dogs, wood rats, fox squirrels and other species of ground squirrels and chipmunks

Agent: Bacteria

Where the disease occurs: Western US, South America, Africa, Asia

How the disease spreads

  • Bite of an infected flea
  • Direct contact with infected animal

Prevention

  1. Reduce rodent habitat around your home, work place, and recreational areas. Remove brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood, and possible rodent food supplies, such as pet and wild animal food. Make your home and outbuildings rodent-proof.
  2. Wear gloves if you are handling or skinning potentially infected animals to prevent contact between your skin and the plague bacteria. Contact your local health department if you have questions about disposal of dead animals.
  3. Use repellent if you think you could be exposed to rodent fleas during activities such as camping, hiking, or working outdoors. Products containing DEET can be applied to the skin as well as clothing and products containing permethrin can be applied to clothing (always follow instructions on the label).
  4. Keep fleas off of your pets by applying flea control products. Animals that roam freely are more likely to come in contact with plague infected animals or fleas and could bring them into homes. If your pet becomes sick, seek care from a veterinarian as soon as possible.
  5. Do not allow dogs or cats that roam free in endemic areas to sleep on your bed.

Note: A plague vaccine is no longer available in the United States. New plague vaccines are in development but are not expected to be commercially available in the immediate future.

Additional Information: Plague

 

Salmonellosis

Rodent(s) involved: Rats and mice

Agent: Bacteria

Where the disease occurs: Worldwide

How the disease spreads

  • Eating or drinking food or water that is contaminated by rat feces

Additional Information: Salmonellosis

 

Tularemia

Rodent(s) involved: Wild rodents, including muskrats, ground squirrels and beavers

Agent: Bacteria

Where the disease occurs: Worldwide

How the disease spreads

  • Handling infected animal carcasses
  • Being bitten by an infected tick, deerfly or other insect
  • Eating or drinking contaminated food or water
  • Breathing in the bacteria, F. tularensis

Symptoms vary depending upon the route of infection. Although tularemia can be life-threatening, most infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

Steps to prevent tularemia include:

  • Use of insect repellent
  • Wearing gloves when handling sick or dead animals
  • Avoiding mowing over dead animals

In the United States, naturally occurring infections have been reported from all states except Hawaii.

Additional Information: Tularemia