When it comes to mice, the idiom “good things come in small packages” does not apply. From Mickey Mouse to Mighty Mouse, mice are often portrayed as friendly characters in cartoons and movies. However, in reality, mice poise a serious threat to humans as they can potentially carry a wide variety of diseases. Mice can spread disease a number of different ways. Diseases can be passed on to humans from mice directly through contact with mice (including bites), through the aerosolized particles in their urine/droppings/saliva, and by eating food or drinking water contaminated by mice.
Mice can also spread diseases indirectly through the bite of an infected insect such as a tick or flea that feed on an infected rodent. Some diseases that can be spread indirectly by mice, include Colorado Tick Fever, Lyme Disease and Babesiosis. If you believe you have contracted a disease from rodents, seek medical assistance immediately. Below we have listed some of the diseases spread by mice in the U.S. Salmonellosis - Salmonellosis is the medical term for illnesses caused by the bacteria, Salmonella. Every year in the United States, outbreaks of Salmonella make people sick and cause nightmares for businesses, especially in the food industry. The CDC reports roughly 40,000 cases of Salmonellosis annually in the United States. Abdominal pains, diaherra and fever are the symptoms most commonly associated with Salmonellosis. Through October 2013, the CDC website lists 7 different Salmonella outbreaks for this year alone, related to chicken, cucumbers, ground beef and Tahini Seasame paste. Mice can spread salmonella by contaminating food.
Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) - a bacteria like Salmonella that can be spread to humans by mice and other rodents when the urine of infected host animals contaminates food or water that humans consume. Humans can also contract Leptospirosis via direct contact with an infected rodent’s urine. A great variety of symptoms have been associated with the disease such as red eyes, jaundice, vomiting, chills and more. Although cases are reported worldwide, the disease t is more prevalent in locales with warmer temperatures.
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM) - a neurological disease that causing a swelling of the brain that is spread most commonly by the House Mouse, Mus musculus. People contract LCM by becoming exposed to the droppings, nesting areas or urine of an infected animal. Most frequently reported symptoms include nausea, fever and lack of appetite. Only 1% of reported cases are fatal. There have been cases of people with pet mice or hamsters have contracted LCM. Cases have been reported throughout the United States and are not located in a specific region of the country.
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) – this potentially fatal disease is primarily spread by the deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus, when humans breathe in dust particles that have contaminated by the rodent either through their droppings, urine or saliva. Airborne transmission of the virus is the most common way the disease is spread. Hantavirus cases in the U.S. occur more frequently in rural areas. While deer mice are the most common carrier, hantavirus can also be spread by the white-footed mouse, cotton rats and rice rats. According to the CDC, “Anyone who comes into contact with rodents that carry hantavirus is at risk of HPS.”
Some activities that might raise your risk for contracting hantavirus, include camping and frequenting crawl spaces, vacant buildings and areas under houses. Hantavirus has a morality rate of 38%. The outbreak in 2012 at Yosemite National Park that left 3 people dead grabbed headlines last year.
For more information on diseases spread by mice, visit our rodent disease page.
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