feral rat on bag of garbage

Are Rats Dangerous? What Studies Reveal About Rats and Disease

Rats have been associated with disease and dirtiness in Western culture for centuries. In fact, rats have long been blamed for spreading the bubonic plague throughout Europe and Asia, an illness that erupted in the mid-1300s that wiped out millions of people. But is it true that rats actually spread disease, and if so, do they spread it directly or indirectly?

The answer is “yes” and “yes.” Feral rats can spread disease, and according to the CDC, they can spread it both directly and indirectly.

Diseases Transmitted Directly By Rats

When health experts say a disease is transmitted directly by a rat, they mean that the diseased rat has physical contact with a susceptible person or animal. To get a disease transmitted to you directly from a rat, one of the following typically occurs:

  1. The rat bites you.
  2. The rat scratches you.
  3. You handle the dead rat without proper protection.

Rats typically would much rather run and hide from a big, hulking human, so transmission from bites is rare. That being said, even a dead rat can pose a threat to your health, so never touch one without protective gear. Some diseases you can get from direct contact with a rat in the United States include hantavirus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, rat-bite fever, and tularemia.

Diseases Transmitted Indirectly By Rats

When health experts say a disease is transmitted indirectlyby a rat, they mean that there is no direct rat-to-person or rat-to-animal contact. Disease can be transmitted indirectly through contact with things like:

  • a contaminated object, food, or drinking water;
  • animal waste;
  • and insect bites.

Not only do rats act as reservoirs for a variety of diseases, but additionally they carry parasites that also harbor diseases. While transmitting diseases to humans, rats can also pass along their parasites, like fleas and lice, which humans can then spread to each other. Interestingly, this scenario is what many historians theorize happened to make the bubonic plague spread so quickly.

Rodent feces, urine, and saliva are another significant area of concern. These substances contaminate food and water and can cause you to contract leptospirosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, rat-bite fever, salmonellosis, or tularemia. Furthermore, if the rats infesting your home carry hantavirus, merely breathing any contaminated dust in your indoor air puts you at risk for contracting this critical respiratory disease.

Don’t put your health at risk. If you see the signs of a rat infestation on your New Jersey property, contact our rodent control experts to effectively tackle the problem. Give us a call at (888) 617-6133 or use our online form.

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