What Diseases can Rats Spread to Humans?

August 2019

Staying healthy can be difficult, especially when temperatures drop and the weather turns cold. Not only do you have to worry about the flu, but common colds are quick to spread as well. While we typically focus on which viruses we can pick up from our fellow man, we are rarely warned against what diseases and infections we can get from rodents.

Because food becomes scarce and outdoor temperatures drop in the winter, rodents often enter homes through small openings in order to survive. As they build nests and establish new homes, rodents can become a major headache, causing extensive damage to your property. Additionally, the accumulation of rodent feces puts home owners at risk. Rodent feces can spread diseases and viruses, contaminate food, and trigger allergic reaction in humans. Furthermore, an infected rodent can pass diseases on to humans indirectly through ticks, mites, or fleas.

Rat Lungworm

In addition to rodents, several different animals can be infected by rat lungworm including snails and slugs. Infected rats carry the adult form of the parasite and pass parasitic larvae in their feces, which is how it infects slugs and snails. While snails and slugs aren’t a popular menu item for most people in the continental U.S., there have been several rat lungworm cases in Hawaii, as well in several countries around the world. People can also become infected if they accidentally eat part of a slug on raw produce (lettuce, fruits, and other vegetables) that isn’t washed thoroughly.

It is common for people infected with rat lungworm to show no symptoms at all. However, others may experience flu-like symptoms. Very rarely will meningitis, which can be fatal, develop from rat lungworm. If you believe you may be infected with the rat lungworm parasite, you should contact your primary healthcare provider and seek medical attention.


The white-footed deer mouse is the primary carrier of Hantavirus, a potentially life-threatening disease spread to humans via infected rodent urine, droppings or saliva. While there are different ways people can become infected with Hantavirus, the virus is mainly transmitted when the toxins become airborne and are breathed in by people. Most people tend to contract Hantavirus in spaces that are actively infested by rodents. Additionally, one may contract the virus if bitten by an infected rodent.

Once exposed, Hantavirus symptoms typically develop between 1 and 5 weeks. Early symptoms may look like the flu or a common cold. People may also experience headaches, dizziness, chills and abdominal pain. If left untreated Hantavirus can progress, leading to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, or HPS. Early symptoms of HPS include fever, fatigue, and muscle aches in your hips, thighs, and back. Sometimes abdominal pain, vomiting, and dizziness will be present. Eventually, HPS will lead to will experience respiratory distress and failure. Given the seriousness of Hantavirus and HPS, it is of utmost importance to seek medical attention right away if you believe you’ve been exposed to infected rodent droppings or fluids.


If you remember your high school or middle school history class, then you probably remember learning about plague. If you recall, plague wiped a major portion of Europe’s population during the Middle Ages. While the last major outbreak in the United States was back in the 1920s, human plague infections can still occur.

For the most part, fleas are responsible for transmitting plague. When an infected rodent dies from plague, infected fleas have to find another source of food. People and animals (in particular, cats) that are in an area where rodents have recently died from plague are most at risk for developing bubonic plague or septicemic plague. Symptoms of bubonic plague include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and body aches. Septicemic plague is far more serious as it involves septic shock from the virus entering the bloodstream. Additionally, one can develop pneumonic plague. Pneumonic plague occurs when plague bacteria is inhaled through the lungs. Pneumonic plague is worrisome because it can be spread from person to person.

If you think you have been exposed to plague, you should consult a healthcare provider in order to be treated with antibiotics.

Because rodents are quick to reproduce, homeowners can have an infestation on their hands relatively swiftly. Prevention is by far the best way to protect yourself from infected rodents. If you suspect you have an infestation in your home, call your local Aptive Environmental branch today.

Recommended Reading

Pest Control: The Lifecycle of Pests

Pests are a nuisance to homeowners, and can cause a lot of damage to property, as well as health risks to humans and pets. To effectively control pests, it is important to understand their lifecycle and behavior. In this article, we will explore the lifecycle of...

Feb 17, 2023

Data, Patterns, and Pest Control

As a leading pest control provider, Aptive service professionals encounter all kinds of pest activity across the country. Our ability to monitor this pest activity has provided valuable insights into understanding the prevalence of specific pest types at different...

Aug 1, 2023

Jumping Spider Control: Effective Methods to Eliminate and Prevent

Jumping spiders may seem harmless, but they can quickly get out of hand. With their swift movements and sharp vision, jumping spiders can be a nuisance and even pose risks to you and your surroundings. That's where effective jumping spider control methods come into...

Jul 26, 2023

Brown Recluse Spider: Facts, Bites & Control

Did you know that brown recluse spiders, also known as violin spiders, are among the most common venomous arachnids found in the United States? These elusive creatures are famous for their distinctive violin-shaped markings on their bodies. Brown recluse spiders...

Jul 14, 2023

Ultimate guide to identifying, preventing, and treating earwigs

Did you know that there is an insect with a rather peculiar name that often sparks curiosity and even fear? Meet the earwig, a nocturnal creature belonging to the order Dermaptera. With elongated bodies and distinctive pincers called cerci at their rear end, these...

Jun 19, 2023

Carpet Beetles: Identification, Prevention & Control Tips

Did you know that there are tiny creatures lurking in your home that can cause significant damage to fabrics and other materials? These are carpet beetles, small oval-shaped insects with a varied color pattern. There are several species of carpet beetles, but the...

Jun 12, 2023

Flea Bites: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Have you ever noticed a red bump on your skin that is itchy and painful? If so, you might have been bitten by a flea. Fleas are tiny insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals, and their bites can cause discomfort and irritation. In this article, we will...

May 31, 2023

Get Rid of Silverfish: Your Ultimate Guide!

Silverfish are common household pests that can be found in dark and damp areas of your home, such as basements, attics, and bathrooms. They are named after their silvery, metallic appearance and fish-like movements. These insects have a three-stage life cycle: egg,...

May 25, 2023

The Short Lifespan of Flies

Flies have a relatively short lifespan, typically living for only a few weeks to a few months, depending on the species. Their lifespan is influenced by various factors, including temperature, humidity, and availability of food and water. Flies lay their eggs in...

Feb 15, 2023

What Attracts Ants to Your Home?

Ants are small, seemingly harmless pests, but without proper treatment they can quickly become a massive nuisance. Oftentimes, homeowners don’t know where to start with ants and typically try solutions that only temporarily fix the problem. It can be difficult to...

Nov 22, 2022

How to Pest-Proof Your Garbage Cans

Depending on where you live, you may be familiar with managing pest-ridden garbage cans. What many city-dwellers and suburbians don’t realize though, is how easy it is for their own trash cans to become home to opportunistic pests. Allowing bugs to live in your...

Oct 20, 2022

Take back your home with pest control today.

Pin It on Pinterest