Rodents are well known as disease carriers. Different types of rodents carry and transmit different diseases. Transmission of many of these diseases requires direct exposure to the excrement of certain rodents or direct bites by rodents, so understanding the risks of exposure from certain species is important to actively prevent infection.
Some of the most well known diseases transmitted by rodents include: hantavirus, rat-bite fever, and of course, the plague. While many of these diseases are fairly uncommon in many parts of the U.S, they are all still very much a concern, and in some parts of the world, a more serious everyday risk based on factors like living conditions and overall sanitation. Very occasionally, diseases thought to be non-existent here in the U.S. show up here; they can be transported lots of ways, but one of the biggest comes from travelers who go abroad and return. Here are some of the most common diseases spread by rodents.
A fairly common virus, Hantavirus occurs throughout the Americas— North and South— and is contracted by breathing in dust contaminated with rodent droppings or urine, or other direct contact with these substances. Bite wounds can also spread this disease, though this is less common. The deer mouse, cotton rat, rice rat, and white-footed mouse all carry this disease. Utah homes many, many deer mice, although the others mentioned here are less common.
Rat Bite Fever
Rats and mice can potentially transmit this bacterial disease. A bite or a scratch wound from a rodent can spread this disease, as can contact with a dead rodent. Similarly, consuming food or drink that has been contaminated with rat droppings can lead to infection.
Salmonellosis (Salmonella poisoning)
This is also a worldwide disease risk brought on by exposure to rat feces. This exposure is commonly derived from eating or drinking contaminated substances.
Made infamous by the enormous death count in medieval Europe and other countries around the world, the plague is still among diseases spread by rodents that warrants concern. A bacterial disease, the plague is transmitted by a wide range of rodents, including: squirrels, chipmunks, prairie dogs, wood rats, and other wild rodents. The disease is spread primarily through bites from infected fleas, but can also spread from direct exposure from an infected animal.