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

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

What to Do After a Pest Control Treatment by Aptive

Most homeowners know the importance of receiving routine pest control treatments each quarter, but not all know that the actions you take immediately following a treatment can directly determine its success. As the homeowner, make sure you’re taking full advantage...

Sep 15, 2022

Do You Need Pest Control in the Winter?

Pest control is a successful way that millions of people reduce bugs in their homes. It’s common to use pest services during warm months, but it’s just as important to stay protected and prepared during the winter. Many people actually notice an increase of...

Aug 22, 2022

What Insect Stings Hurt The Most?

Stinging insects are the worst. While you likely remember being stung by a bee or bit by a fire ant, you might be surprised to hear that these insects are on the lower end of the insect sting pain scale. In this article we’ll explore which insects have the most...

Jul 11, 2022

Is a Yellow Jacket a Bee?

Yellow jackets and bees have a lot in common when it comes to physical appearance. This can make it difficult to tell them apart, especially when one or the other is buzzing around your head. However, knowing the difference could be useful in encouraging the right...

Jun 3, 2022

Why Do Snails and Slugs Come Out After it Rains?

If you have a garden, you might know the hassle of slugs and snails eating your precious plants. While they aren’t dangerous to humans, they can slowly wreak havoc to your garden and potentially start an infestation in your home. In this article, we’ll take a...

May 25, 2022

Can Humans Get Fleas?

A common concern among pet owners is that their dogs or cats will pick up fleas. However, it's not just pets that are at risk; humans can actually get fleas too. Fleas will jump onto any animal or person that it can reach to feed on the blood it needs to survive....

Apr 23, 2022

Will My Cat Keep Mice Away?

Will mice stay away if you have cats? It’s a common belief that cats will take out any mice in or around your home. Before you run to an animal shelter to adopt a cat, read this article to learn more about the potential dangers, how cats could make your mouse...

Mar 21, 2022
DIY Pest Control Pros and Cons

DIY Pest Control Pros and Cons

When you’ve asked other people about what they do for their home pest control, you've probably had a lot of mixed responses. It seems like there are more people doing DIY pest control than ever before, and you're starting to wonder if it's something you...

Jul 19, 2021
5 Surprising Spider Superpowers

5 Surprising Spider Superpowers

Spiders can be scary creatures, but they also have special abilities that make them seem like eight-legged superheroes. In fact, they're truly marvels of nature. Even if you'd rather not have them in your home, it's easy to respect their fascinating...

Jun 10, 2021

Take back your home from pests today.

Pin It on Pinterest