Mice have adapted well to living in our home, or at least near our homes. It’s not uncommon especially during the colder months to have found you have an uninvited guest living somewhere in your home; it can happen to the best of us. We are more vulnerable to these diseases than most may think.
What most people don’t realize is that mice can be much more than just an annoyance. Mice are associated with a number of health risks, and are known to spread more than 35 diseases. Diseases can be spread to humans directly through handling live or dead mice, coming in contact with mice saliva, urine feces, and by being bit by the rodent. It doesn’t stop there either, diseases can also be spread indirectly through mites, fleas and ticks that may a have feed on an infected mouse. Also like many rodents do, mice shed hair daily and shed an entire coat twice a year. This leaves many ways for humans to possibly come across rodents and diseases.
Some of the most common diseases carried by mice are Hantavirus, Salmonella, Leptospirosis, Rat-bite fever and Plague.
Hantavirus and Salmonella
Both Salmonella and Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome are spread through mouse urine (more commonly fresh urine) and through mouse droppings, when food or water is contaminated by the feces. Symptoms of Salmonella can include gastrointestinal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Even breathing in dust contaminated with mice droppings can spread the Hantavirus. Symptoms of the Hantavirus can include flu-like aches and pains, coughing and shortness of breath which can lead to respiratory distress and renal failure.
Rate bite fever and Leptospirosis
Rate bite fever can be carried by mice as well as rats. This disease is spread through bites and scratches. It can also be transmitted by touching or the handling of an infected rodent and consuming food or water that has been contaminated. The symptoms include body aches and pains, fever, vomiting, and a red rash accompanied with small bumps. Leptospirosis is a bacterium that is spread through mouse urine and can remain in water and soil for months. Symptoms include high grade fever, headaches, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea and jaundice.
There are three different kinds of plague: Bubonic, Septicemic and Pneumonic. Plague is caused by a bacterium and transmitted by bites from fleas that have fed on infected rodents. Plague is infamous for killing millions of people in Europe during the middle ages. For all three types, symptoms begin the same, high grade fevers and extreme weakness.
Bubonic plague symptoms include painful and swollen lymph nodes. Septicemic plague symptoms include abdominal pain, septic shock with fever and chills, and possibly bleeding into the skin and other organs. Pneumonic plague can cause respiratory failure and shock. Symptoms include headache, weakness, and a rapidly developing pneumonia with shortness of breath, chest pain, and cough. The pneumonia may cause respiratory failure and shock. Pneumonic plague is the most serious form of the disease and is the only form of plague that can be spread from person to person.
It’s also important to remember that humans aren’t the only ones at risk. Pets such as dogs and cats can easily contract diseases from rodents too. There are many dogs and cats that follow their animal instincts and will “hunt” mice, squirrels voles etc and happily bring the dead rodent home for you as a prize. It’s important to try and keep pets away from areas that may have dead rodents and to talk with your veterinarian for proper flea treatments that are safe for everyone.