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How A Mice Infestation Can Affect Your Health

Updated: Apr 11



How A Mice Infestation Can Affect Your Health graphic

Undomesticated mice, like all rodents, can be more than just a pest control issue. Mice carry various diseases which pose risks to humans and pets. Illnesses such as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, Leptospirosis, Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis, plague, and typhus can be transmitted directly via bite or indirectly through exposure to rodent feces and urine.

If you have discovered mouse droppings in your home, you might be wondering if it warrants a panic. Chore-ology will arm you with all the information regarding the health risks related to rodent infestations. We will discuss the warning signs, early symptoms, health risks, what to do, and how to prevent future infestations.  


Warning Signs Of A Rodent Infestation


There are several ways of identifying a rodent infestation. If you notice any of these in or around your property, it is in your best interest to have the infestation eliminated before it affects your health.


Signs in your home


It's important to note that rats and mice leave many similar signs that there may be an infestation in your home. Be sure to identify which rodent you are dealing with as rats pose other specific health risks to humans and pets.


Keep your eyes and ears open for the following signs of a mouse infestation:


  • Unusual noises such as squeaking, scratching, or tiny footsteps

  • Foul ammonia-like odors from rodent urine

  • Rodent droppings

  • Scratch and gnaw marks or holes on food items, wooden structures, or walls

  • Rodent nest sighting

  • Seeing an actual mouse

  • Pets on high alert or behaving strangely

Health warning signs


You may not have noticed the physical signs of an infestation in your home, especially if the mice are in an area such as your attic. However, several signs indicate that the infestation has reached critical levels and is now affecting your health. The general symptoms listed below could be indicative of a rodent infestation:


  • Headaches

  • Fever

  • Respiratory problems

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Abdominal pain

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle cramps

  • Dizziness

These may seem quite general and could be caused by several other things. However, if a mice infestation is present along with these early symptoms, it can be the precursor to more specific and dangerous illnesses.


Health Risks Associated With Infestation


Here are the specific diseases transmitted by mice to humans, how they are transferred, and their severity. While mice are prone to be carriers of these diseases, not every mouse is a carrier.


Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome


Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a rare but deadly disease from the Hantavirus family. It is carried by certain kinds of mice and rats. In North America, the most common carriers are deer mice and white-footed mice. 


This potentially life-threatening disease can be contracted by any person regardless of their overall health status. It is among the more serious of the diseases carried by rodents, and while it can be survived, it is fatal in 40% of patients who have not been treated early.


How HPS is contracted


This virus can be contracted from mouse-to-human (never pet-to-human or human-to-human) in the following ways:


  • Rodent bites

  • Improper clean-up or removal of rodent droppings, nests, and urine that may contaminate your household, food, or water, or become airborne

  • Cleaning out an infested area that has been closed up for a long time

  • Long-term exposure or work in areas rife with rodent activity 

The incubation period of HPS lasts up to eight weeks with no outward indication.


Symptoms


These will appear between one and five weeks after a person has been infected by the Hantavirus. This illness displays flu-like symptoms in the initial stages such as headaches, fever, severe muscle aches, and fatigue. Thereafter, the symptoms become more severe and the person may experience:


  • Stomach pain

  • Diarrhea

  • Trouble breathing

  • Chills

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

The third stage of the virus may cause internal bleeding, and fluid in the lungs due to weakened and leaking blood vessels. The patient's heart muscle is also weakened, and the insufficient supply of blood could lead to organ failure and death.


Treatment


HPS must be diagnosed by a medical professional through examination and blood work; however, the early symptoms may be confused with the flu. If you have been exposed to rodents, it is important to mention this to your practitioner.


There is no official treatment or cure for HPS, but those suffering may be put on a course of medication. In severe cases, HPS is treated in intensive care with oxygen therapy, dialysis, fluid replacement, and antiviral medication.


Leptospirosis


This is a rare bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans via the urine from rodents as well as dogs and farm animals. The animals themselves may not display symptoms but do spread diseases.


How Leptospirosis is contracted


The bacteria is found in mouse urine, which can contaminate your food, soil, and water. If you have an open wound or scratch and make contact with rodent urine, you are at risk of contracting Leptospirosis. The germs can also enter your body through your mouth or nose.


Once a human is infected, it is possible to transmit the bacteria to another human through breastfeeding and bodily fluids.


Symptoms


The first phase of this infection is not life-threatening and can be over within a week. The symptoms are much like those of influenza. The second phase only occurs if the bacteria has entered your organs and kidneys, in particular. This could result in Weil's Syndrome, which causes:


  • Kidney damage

  • Internal bleeding

  • Jaundice

Treatment


The first phase can be treated with a course of antibiotics and painkillers. Should a person reach the second phase of the infection, more potent treatments will be prescribed relative to the organs that have been affected.


Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus


Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV) is another viral infection carried by the common house mouse. The symptoms can be severe but it is survivable, with a mortality rate of less than 1%.


How LCMV is contracted


LCMV is transmitted through contact with droppings, urine, saliva, and nests from the infected rodent. It is transmitted through broken skin, the mouth, nose, or eyes. It can also come from a rodent bite.


Human-to-human transmission has only been reported in cases of organ transplant and pregnancy. This virus is especially dangerous to a fetus as it can lead to birth defects such as chorioretinitis, congenital hydrocephalus, and intellectual disability.


Symptoms


This virus affects the nervous system, and initial symptoms may only become present between eight and 13 days after infection. The initial phase of LCMV's symptoms include:


  • Fever

  • Lack of appetite

  • Muscle aches

  • Nausea

  • Headache

  • Vomiting

  • Sore throat

  • Cough

  • Joint pain

  • Testicular pain

  • Pain in the salivary glands

The secondary phase of LCMV, should it occur, can lead to:


  • Encephalitis

  • Meningitis

  • Meningoencephalitis

  • Acute hydrocephalus

Treatment


Once you have been diagnosed by a doctor, and urine tests have confirmed the presence of the virus, you may be prescribed a course of antiviral medications. However, most patients can recover at home with the help of medications to treat fever, pain, and inflammation.  In severe cases, hospitalization would be required.


Plague


Plague comes from the bacteria Yersinia pestis which is found in small rodents such as mice, and their fleas. Your household pets may become infected with this bacteria if they eat the infected rodent or if there is a flea transference.


How plague is contracted


An infected rodent flea can also bite humans and spread the disease. In the case of pneumonic plague, the bacteria can be contracted through coughs and sneezes, from animal-to-human and human-to-human. As contagious as it is, the likelihood of contracting plague in the United States is quite low, infecting an average of seven people per year.


Symptoms


The incubation period is between one and three days and physical ailments will show quite soon. In humans, symptoms include:


  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Weakness

  • Chest pain

  • Cough

  • Rapidly developing pneumonia

Signs in cats and dogs may include:


  • Skin abscesses

  • Mouth ulcers

  • Lethargy

  • Vomiting

  • Discharge from eyes

  • Diarrhea

  • Swollen lymph nodes

Treatment


If treated in time, a simple course of antibiotics and pain medication will suffice. However, if pneumonic plague is left untreated, it can be fatal in under 24 hours.


Typhus


This is another bacterial disease spread by the fleas of infected rodents. The bite of a typhus-infected flea as well as breathing in its droppings can lead to a human contracting the illness.


Symptoms


It can take up to two weeks for symptoms to appear after the initial exposure.


Flea-borne typhus symptoms include:


  • Rash (in half of patients)

  • Cough

  • Fever

  • Loss of appetite

  • Abdominal  pain

  • Cough

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

Treatment


The treatment is fairly straightforward and just requires antibiotics. If left untreated for too long, illness could be severe, resulting in hospitalization. Typhus death rates are low, with less than 1% of infections resulting in fatalities.


Be sure to inform your practitioner of any exposure or contact with mice or rodents as well as relevant information such as outdoor excursions that may have led you to become infected unknowingly. In the case of all of these illnesses, early treatment is key.


What Qualifies As A Mice Infestation?


When you hear the word "infestation", you probably imagine hundreds of mice. Having one or two mice present in your home may not seem like any reason to worry, but if left unattended, you will likely have an infestation.


A female mouse has a gestation period of between 19 and 21 days and can give birth between five and 10 times a year, with each litter being between three and 14 pups. Furthermore, female mice can start reproducing at just 6 weeks old. Additionally, mice that have taken up occupation inside your home have an average lifespan of 2-3 years.


What To Do If You Have An Infestation


If you have a mouse infestation, you need to call in professionals to rid your home of vermin correctly and safely. Chore-ology is the expert in the removal and cleaning of biohazardous materials and waste, such as mice infestations.


In the case of rodent infestations, prevention is better than cure. Put the health and safety of your family in our expert hands. Get in touch with us today to prevent any potential real health risks posed by infected rodents - whether they're rats, wild mice, or house mice.

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