I once thought the worst a rodent could do to you was bite you while you sleep and you'd just have to deal with pain alone. Little did I know that those furry mammals are like self propelled missiles carrying warheads capable of doing real harm to our health.
Rodents are thought to have been responsible for more deaths than all the wars over the last 1 000 years. The "warheads" contained in their bodies are the myriad of disease festering within them, awaiting their next victim.
Rodents act as a vector, carrying a wide range of disease causing organisms including many species of viruses, bacteria, protozoa and helminths (worms). Additionally, rodents indirectly carry diseases via ectoparasites; such as fleas, lice and mites.
How Can I Catch A Rodent Disease?
Rats act like the Trojan horse; they enter your home and act as the vehicle for other diseases. Their mere presence leaves you vulnerable as they need not bite you in order for you to catch some of the diseases they carry. Direct or indirect contact with rat excrement, inhaling the particles found in rodent infested areas, drinking or eating contaminated water and food as well as handling dead rodents are some of the many ways in which you can get infected.
Diseases spread by rodents
This is a bacteria that affects both pets and humans, and occurs through consuming water that is contaminated with rodent faeces. This is why it's so important for both your own and your pets safety that you monitor their eating and drinking bowls, ensuring that they remain clean.
The symptoms of Salmonellosis usually occur 12 to 72 hours after infection, and these include fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Typhoid is another strain of salmonellosis - it's the more severe strain - with the infection spreading from your intestines all the way through to the lymphatic system. The fever (typhoid fever) is more prevalent in developing countries, affecting up to 27 million people a year.
The cause of The Black Death - one of the most devastating events in human history - is the bacterium Yersinia Pestis. It was first found on oriental fleas living on rats. The fleas rode the rats like a chariot to war, killing an estimated 75 to 200 million people between 1347 and 1351. Today several species of rats still harbour this notorious bacteria.
The disease spreads through flea bites (causing bubonic- or septicemic plague), contaminated animals and infectious particles.
The plague's symptoms include; bubonic plague (symptoms are swollen and painful lymph node i.e buboes), pneumonic plague (this is when there is the presence of fever and pneumonia) and septicemic plague (which is identified by diarrhea, delirium, extreme weakness bleeding in the skin and other organs).
With rapid diagnosis the disease can be treated with antibiotics, be glad it's not 1347!
Tularemia is another disease that can be spread by rodents, and is caused by the bacterium Frencisella tularensis. This bacteria is highly contagious and can be life threatening. Tularemia has the ability to enter your body through your skin, mouth lungs or eyes.
There are various forms of tularemia depending on where the virus entered your body. The most common form of the disease is one that's caused by skin contact (ulceroglandular tularemia), probably due to the ease with which contact with your skin can occur. The more deadly form of tularemia is one that is caused by inhaling the bacteria (pneumonic tularemia)
Unlike the diseases mentioned above - where the route of infection was indirect - rat-bite fever (as the name suggests) is the direct, usually caused by a bite or scratch from an infected rodent. The bacteria Spirillum minus and Streptobacillus cause rat-bite fever.
These bacteria are also present in rodent excrement and secretions from the nose, mouth and eyes. It is advisable not to handle infected animals or ingest anything likely to have been contaminated by rodents. Serious complications of the virus may include heart, brain and lung infections and may cause abscesses in internal organs.
The presence of rodents in our homes and work spaces bring about many dangers to our health; the diseases mentioned in this blog are just a few of the many diseases that rodents potentially carry. Most of them can be treated with a timely diagnosis and are usually alleviated with prescribed antibiotics. However in this case I think you'd agree that prevention is certainly referable to cure.
Click here for more information on other diseases caused by rodents and symptoms to look out for.
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