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Here is the list of the 9 rat diseases transmitted to humans:

  • Leptospirosis or “rat disease”.
  • Salmonellosis
  • Rat bite fever
  • Tularemia
  • Meningitis
  • Cysticercosis
  • Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis
  • Bubonic plague
  • Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome

Find out more about these different diseases throughout this article and why calling a professional rat exterminator should be a priority in the case of an infestation.

Rats have spread diseases since the Middle Ages

Rodents are the most abundant and diverse order of living mammals in the world. With more than 2,200 species, they are found everywhere and our country is no exception with many rodent species in Canada.

As early as the Middle Ages, these rodents were the source of the worst disease of the time: the plague. Despite modern hygiene methods, rats are still responsible for health problems because they carry many diseases, some of which are fatal. Our pest extermination service therefore recommends being extra vigilant if you suspect a rodent infestation in your home.

The 9 rat diseases transmitted to humans


The human body has an incredible defence mechanism: the immune system. This system, which is unique to each individual, provides protection against many infectious diseases.

However, a rodent problem puts our immune system to the test and an infestation can cause a lot of concern for humans. A rat or mouse exterminator is highly recommended if you discover them in your home, otherwise you might fall victim to one of the following infections.

1. Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a disease that transmits a bacterium (Leptospira) through animal urine. Rodents are the main carriers. Antibiotics are often enough to treat the disease, but hospitalization is necessary in severe cases.

Leptospirosis is not very common in Quebec and mainly occurs in tropical regions.

2. Salmonellosis

Salmonellosis is another disease transmitted by a bacterium called salmonella. It is caused by eating contaminated food.

The disease is often symptomless, but it can still cause stomach aches, fever, nausea or vomiting. The majority of those affected recover without treatment after a few days.

3. Rat bite fever

When rats invade, they don’t just attack food: they can bite you and cause a high fever and skin rash. Symptoms can last up to several months without treatment. Fortunately, antibiotics are very effective in eradicating it permanently.

4. Tularemia

Caused by the bacterium F.tularensis, tularemia is transmitted by ingesting contaminated food, being bitten or coming into contact with an infected surface. Skin becomes infected and once again, fever and joint pain are the main symptoms.

In Canada, it is mainly transmitted by wild rabbits and rodents. It is usually treated with Streptomycin.

5. Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges that is transmitted by various animals, including rodents. Fever and neck stiffness are the 2 main symptoms that should raise concern.

There are 2 types of meningitis: viral, which is the most common, and bacterial. Bacterial meningitis is fatal in 1 out of 10 cases. We warned you: rats don’t mess around!

6. Cysticercosis

In humans, cysticercosis results from an infection transmitted by parasitic worms after eating meat infected by larvae. The worm attaches itself to the small intestine where it lays its eggs.

Symptoms differ between infected individuals, sometimes making diagnosis and treatment very difficult.

7. Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis

Lymphocytic choriomeningitis is usually transmitted in winter by domestic rodents, which are themselves infected by wild mice carrying the disease.

Although it is often asymptomatic, symptoms can be similar to those of a flu (fever, lack of appetite, nausea, etc.). In this case, the virus can be eradicated by drug treatment or hospitalization.

8. Bubonic plague

The bubonic plague is transmitted by a violent bacterium called Yersinia pestis. Rats indirectly transmit it to humans through the bite of an infected flea.

This serious disease, which is present in America, Africa and Asia, is fatal if it is not treated promptly. Fortunately, cases of infection are very rare.

9. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a serious and sometimes fatal respiratory disease. Anyone who comes into contact with rodents carrying this type of virus is at risk of developing the disease.

Infestation of rats and mice is the main risk of exposure to hantaviruses. Even healthy people are at risk.

The 2 dangerous rat diseases spread to children

Children do not have as “complete” an immune system as adults. They are therefore more vulnerable than their elders to certain diseases transmitted by rats. If you’ve had newborns for a few weeks and have been victims of rat infestations before, a total decontamination of your home is a good idea to make sure that the health risks are no longer present.

Among the multitude of diseases transmitted by these rodents, two are particularly worrisome for children’s health.

1. Hymenolepis nana

The rat is a carrier of the Hymenolepis nana parasite. This parasite can accidentally live in the small intestine of humans. It usually spreads from person to person through eggs in the feces and then attaches itself to the intestinal wall where it absorbs nutrients from its host through the cells lining the intestine. A person can become infected by ingesting contaminated food or water.

The infection, which causes abdominal pain, restlessness and itching, may have no harmful effects on adults. However, it is more likely to cause serious medical problems in younger children.

2. Typhoid fever and health problems in children

In addition to the Hymenolepis nana parasite, another disease transmitted by rats can potentially cause significant health problems in children: typhoid fever. Rats can sometimes become infected, especially when these rodents come into direct contact with human faeces, in sewers, for example. Typhoid fever affects nearly 30 million people a year.

Although it can be treated with antibiotics, children are nevertheless more vulnerable to contracting this infection than adults, hence the importance of exterminating this harmful pest.

Call Elite Pest Control to prevent rats from spreading serious diseases

Rats have lived alongside us for centuries and the diseases they can transmit to humans are manifold. Although some of these diseases are easily treatable, rodents can clearly be dangerous.

If you notice rodents in your home, you need to get rid of them. Elite Pest Control offers a professional rat extermination service to protect the health of you and your children. Contact us for all your pest control needs.