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The thought of rats running through one’s home, roof, place of work or even the kitchen of your favourite restaurant is not pleasant but is a reality one needs to bear in mind.

Perhaps the most serious problem with this is the rodents’ danger to one’s health. Their reputation as carriers of the Bubonic Plague (“Black Death”) was a worldwide fear as millions of people lost their lives centuries ago; thankfully South Africa is free from the disease. Rats are indiscriminate in their habits. They will frequent sewers and rubbish heaps and then make themselves quite at home in roofs or kitchen cupboards.

Many disease organisms are carried by rodents, the most notable in South Africa being those that cause food poisoning, the Salmonella group. This bacterium is carried in their urine and droppings and transmitted to humans by the rodent’s constant uncontrolled urination.

Worldwide there have been a few reports of people getting really ill and even dying after contracting Leptospirosis– which is a disease transmitted by various animals including rats, which is described below. In fact, warnings have been made on various social media platforms over the last few years of the dangers of simply drinking your favourite soft drink from a can being a risk, as there is the real risk of rodent urine being present on these cans after being stored and transported before you consume them. This is one potential means one can pick up this disease if the rodent is infected with the disease. Best advice is to clean your can top thoroughly before drinking from it.

Here are a few notable diseases:

Consuming food or water that is contaminated by rat faeces/ urine bacteria can cause this disease.

Rat-bite Fever
This disease may be transmitted through a bite, scratch or contact with a dead rat.

This is an infectious disease caused by a type of bacteria called a spirochete. It can be transmitted by many animals such as rats and other vermin, cattle, pigs, horses, dogs and various wild animals. The disease is transmitted through contact with infected soil or water. The soil or water is contaminated with the waste products of an infected animal. People contract the disease by either ingesting contaminated food or water or by broken skin (cuts etc.) and the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, sinuses, mouth)

Veterinarians, pet shop owners, sewage workers, and farm employees are at particularly high risk. People participating in outdoor sporting activities like canoeing, rafting, hiking, and camping can also come into contact with contaminated water or soil and are at high risk.

Prevention of Leptospirosis:

The risk of acquiring leptospirosis can be greatly reduced by not swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine or eliminating contact with potentially infected animals.

Protective clothing or footwear should be worn by those exposed to contaminated water or soil because of their job or recreational activities

To help prevent Leptospirosis infection, keep rodent problems (rats, mice, or other animal pests) under control. Rodents can carry and spread the bacteria that causes this disease.

Get your pet vaccinated against leptospirosis. The vaccine does not provide 100% protection. This is because there are many strains (types) of leptospires (the bacteria that causes Leptospirosis), and the vaccine does not provide immunity against all strains. It is important to get your pet vaccinated again even if it gets leptospirosis because it can still get infected with a different strain of leptospires.

Pet owners should also take steps to prevent themselves and others from becoming infected with the disease due to an infected pet. The primary mode of transmission of leptospirosis from pets to humans is through direct or indirect contact with contaminated animal tissues, organs, or urine.

In some instances, shedding of leptospires in the urine may persist for as long as 3 months after infection as a result of inadequate or lack of treatment. Always contact your veterinarian and your physician if you have concerns about a possible exposure to an infected animal.

In addition, be sure to follow the below prevention guidelines:

–  Do not handle or come in contact with urine, blood, or tissues from your infected pet before it has received proper treatment.

–  If you need to have contact with animal tissues or urine, wear protective clothing, such as gloves and boots, especially if you are occupationally at risk (veterinarians, farm workers, and sewer workers).

–  As a general rule, always wash your hands after handling your pet or anything that might have your pet’s excrement on it.

–  If you are cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated or have urine from an infected pet on them, use an antibacterial cleaning solution or a solution of 1 part household bleach in 10 parts water.

–  Make sure that your infected pet takes all of its medicine and follow up with your veterinarian

These leptospirosis prevention tips are courtesy of The Centers for Disease control and prevention and can be read further here for any further medical advice.

Flick is here to provide a solution for any rodent query or infestation you may need help with, or for any other pest control solution, advice or concerns you may encounter- give us a ring, drop us an email or be in touch on our website or drop us a comment on our blog or social media platforms | 011 444 1033

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