Rodents may carry infections that can spread to humans. These infections can spread through direct contact with infected mice or through contact with soil, food or water contaminated by infected rats. Infections are rare, but people should take steps to reduce their risk, as staying healthy nowadays is a priority.
Diseases that humans can get from rodents include:
- Leptospirosis – Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection. The bacteria may be present in mouse and rat urine and can enter the human body through cuts or abrasions, and occasionally through the lining of the mouth, nose and eyes. Treatment is with antibiotics.
- Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection – LCMV infections usually come from exposure to urine, faeces or saliva of infected rodents. Infection in pregnancy has not been recorded in Australia. However, there have been cases where LCMV infection in pregnancy has resulted in adverse outcomes (fetal death or congenital conditions affecting the central nervous system).
- Rat bite fever – Rat bite fever is a bacterial illness that can be contracted through the bite of an infected animal or from exposure to water or food contaminated by rodent urine or faeces. The wound is usually not visible by the time the illness presents. Treatment is with antibiotics.
- Gastrointestinal infections (salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis and cryptosporidiosis) – Symptoms include diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache, vomiting, body aches and lethargy. A number of bacterial infections that are usually foodborne can also be transmitted by rodents. This can be via direct contact with rodents or contamination of food preparation surfaces.
Protecting your health
Staying healthy and keeping diseases at bay are possible. Being mindful about waste disposal in your immediate vicinity can solve this problem, along with other solutions:
- Seal any holes or gaps inside your home.
- Store food inside thick, well-sealed containers.
- Clean up any spills/leftover food promptly to avoid attracting rodents.
- Do not set mouse traps near food preparation areas.
What to do if you are bitten by a rodent
- Immediately clean the wound with soap and water.
- Dry the area, apply an antibiotic cream and a clean bandage.
- Seek medical attention. You may need a tetanus immunisation, and in some circumstances, antibiotics are given to prevent infection.
- As the wound heals, stay healthy and keep an eye out for signs of infection such as skin that is warm to the touch, redness or pain. See a doctor if these signs develop.
Mouse baits and poisons
Mouse baits must always be used according to the instructions on the label. Mouse baits licenced for agricultural use must never be used for domestic purposes. Children and pets should be kept away from areas where mouse baits have been used.
Original story found on the New South Wales Government Department of Health website. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.