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What is a rodent-borne disease?
Rodent-borne diseases are those that are transmitted to people through direct contact with rodents (handling or a bites) and touching rodent feces, urine, and saliva. Mice and rats also carry ticks, mites, and fleas that can act as vectors to spread diseases between rodents and people.
Types of rodent-borne diseases in Maine
Before we dive into the list of diseases carried by mice and rats in Maine, it’s important to note that there are several types of rodents capable of spreading disease and causing illness. They include:
Common house mouse
While all rodents carry and transmit disease, not all rodents carry every single disease. Common rodent-borne diseases in Maine include:
Rat bite fever
A disease caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira, Leptospirosis is spread by touching urine and other bodily fluids of infected animals including rats, mice, dogs, and farm animals as well as raccoons and other wildlife.
Common signs and symptoms of Leptospirosis include:
Without proper treatment, Leptospirosis can cause kidney damage and failure, meningitis, liver failure, and even death.
Although the last documented cases of Leptospirosis was in 1996, it is believed many cases go undocumented. It should also be noted that canine Leptospirosis is quite prevalent in Maine and New England and can adversely affect the immune system response and organs of infected dogs. Signs are very similar to that of humans and include fever, vomiting, muscle pain, decreased appetite/weight loss, lethargy, cough, and jaundice.
The CDC defines Lyme disease as the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. It is primarily caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. While it is widely known that blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks) spread Lyme disease in Maine, the white-footed mouse carries the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Deer ticks feed on infected mice and then in turn pass the disease to people and pets.
Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include but are not limited to:
Muscle and joint aches
Swollen lymph nodes
Bulls eye rash (also called Erythema migrans rash)
Data from the Maine Surveillance Report of 2021 shows a 34% increase in confirmed Lyme disease cases from 2020. That’s 110 cases per 100,00 people. What’s more, cases have been reported in all sixteen counties with the highest infection rate in Knox County. Those 65 years old and up are more likely to become infected with this disease.
Rat bite fever
Rat bite fever is an infectious disease caused by the transmission of Streptobacillus moniliformis. It is transmitted from Norway rats and other rodents to humans by rodents carrying the bacteria through bites and scratches as well as contact with saliva, urine, or droppings.
According to the Cleveland Clinic website, rat bite fever is rare in the United States but also a major threat to public health.
Symptoms of rat bite fever include:
Muscle and joint pain
Rash on hands and feet
Additionally, rat bite fever can affect the heart, lungs, and other organs and is potentially fatal.
Salmonella is a group of bacteria that lives in the intestines of animals and humans and can be found in water, food, and soil as well as on surfaces that have been contaminated with the feces of infected rodents as well as other animals. It is often spread to people by eating foods that have been contaminated with feces, poor hand hygiene, and contact with the stool of infected animals.
Signs and symptoms of salmonellosis usually start within 6 to 72 hours after exposure and include:
How Maine residents can protect against rodent-borne diseases
To prevent exposure to mice and rats and the diseases they spread, the local pest control pros at Pine State Pest Solutions recommend the following rodent prevention tips:
Seal entry points in the foundation, walls, and roof as well as around utility openings
Install door sweeps, vent screens, and chimney caps
Make sure gutters are free of clogs and debris and that downspouts divert water away from the foundation
Keep your yard clear of clutter and potential food sources
Store firewood well away from the house and off the ground
Pick up pet waste
Trim trees, shrubs, and bushes away from the side of the house
Maintain a clean home
Repair leaky faucets and pipes
Declutter the entire house including the attic, garage, and closets
Contact Pine State Pest Solutions for help getting rid of mice & rats
Perform an initial clean-out targeting rodents already active
Seal obvious entry points and complete minor exclusion work
Install rodent bait boxes outside the house and also in the garage, attic, and basement
Return for follow-up visits
While on-site your pest control specialist will also point out landscape corrections and offer behavior recommendations that will help make your property less appealing to mice and rats.
For ongoing protection against mice & rats, sign up for year-round pest control
In addition to our stand-alone rodent control, Pine State also offers home pest control services that not only target house-infesting insects, but also rodents. Compare our plans below or simply give us a shout to discuss the best solution for your rodent problem!