Dangers of Rat Infestation
Unless your name is Ben or Willard, finding out you have rats is bad news indeed. Today, we’re going to discuss some of the obvious and the less so dangers you need to be aware of if you discover you have a rat infestation or even just a few. There are three particular areas we’ll cover; Rat droppings, Rat bites and fleas.
Rats are known carriers of a wide variety of diseases and infections including Murine Typhus, Leptospirosis, Eosinophilic Meningitis and of course Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. All of these can be transmitted by rat urine as well as feces through a variety of means such as direct ingestion (no those weren’t capers..) direct skin contact or inhalation of fumes. Eosinophilic Meningitis is a brain infection caused by rat worms – angiostrongylus cantonensis. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that not only harms humans but animals that come into contact with rat feces as well.
Typical symptoms for humans include chills, muscle ache, high fever and possibly diarrhea and jaundice. If not treated quickly, this can lead to liver failure and respiratory death with some cases being fatal. Most have heard of Hanatavirus, usually in regards to mice populations but rats, being rodents, can carry this too and it can be transmitted by not only feces or urine but by saliva as well. Cases of death by HPS are rare but to use a famous quote, “Do I feel lucky?”
Rat bites are the more obvious form of awareness you have a problem on your hands. Considering at least 64% of Australians have a pet, that means dogs or cats are just as susceptible to the danger as humans are. In any given year, 2-3% of Australians will receive a rodent bite with 10% of those becoming infected. The problem is that rats naturally harbor Streptobacillus moniliformis and wild rats are naturally quite higher in having a chance of transmitting this in a bite. The symptoms of Rat Bite Fever typically develop in a week although some cases have gone as long as three weeks after exposure. Over half of those that develop it report swelling and arthritis-like pain. If the patient goes without treatment, development of bronchopneumonia and other complications has led to a mortality rate around 10-13 percent.
The final problem is fleas. How can a flea be a problem? Ask the people who went through the Bubonic Plague. Without treatment, you will die in about four days. It’s transmitted primarily among rodent and their fleas. Your concern when you discover you have a rat infestation is no longer just getting rid of the rats and their droppings and avoiding being bitten by them, you now are up against a tiny terror that decimated Europe. Granted, our medical system is FAR ahead of theirs and cases of the plague in recent years have been swiftly dealt with. In a rural area, or in the aftermath of a disaster, this is one of the primary reasons for proper pest control and hygiene because you can chase off the rat or even kill it but without ensuring it didn’t leave any parting gifts to you in the form of hard to eradicate fleas, you’re possibly in for more trouble than you thought.
Having an experienced Exterminator review your situation, make recommendations for access control and removal of food sources as well as applying baits and other options will give you peace of mind not only for you but your pets and neighbors. If you suspect or know you have a rat problem, don’t delay and contact a medical professional in case of a bite/scratch or believe their droppings were in contact with food sources.