The Mice Are Gone, But Did They Leave You Sick?

Posted on: 4 August 2015

Mice infestations are ubiquitous to this country. Mice are 10-20 times more likely to take up residence in your home than rats, because they require such small entryways. These infestations are increasingly common. For example, the Twin Cities saw a 40% increase in mice infestations last fall. This summer, Philadelphia had the most mouse sightings in a study that surveyed many large cities; 20% of homes there experienced infestations. Large numbers of mice were also reported in Baltimore and Boston. You know what to do if you have mice in your home: call an exterminator. After they're gone, however, do you know what physical symptoms to look for that could indicate you've contracted a rodent-borne illness?

Disease transmission

Because mice spend their lives in many dirty environments, it stands to reason that if they were in your home, so are the bacteria they've encountered. As they walked across your floor, scurried across your countertops, and perused the fruit bowl on your kitchen table, they left bacteria behind. When they foraged through the bags of rice or quinoa in your pantry, they were leaving trails of germs on your shelves. Although it might seem that their droppings would pose the most logical source of contamination, whatever surfaces they touched in your house are suspect.

Mice spread disease in other ways as well. Mice urinate indiscriminately, so you may have cleaned up a countertop where urine has dried, not realizing the sponge now contained this dangerous bacteria. If they urinated in your yard, the soil now houses bacteria. Mice may have taken a dip in your kids' wading pool or the dishwater standing in the kitchen sink, potentially exposing your family members to disease. If you cleaned up an area where mice were nesting, you might have inhaled dust from their droppings that contained airborne particles of bacteria.

Common symptoms of rodent-borne disease

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides simple, easy to understand information on the diseases directly transmitted by rodents as well as where in the world these diseases are likely to occur. Here are some of the physical manifestations of four diseases directly transmitted by mice: hantavirus, leptospirosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM), and salmonellosis.

  1. Flu-like symptoms. Hantavirus, leptospirosis, and LCM begin with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, dizziness, and muscle aches. While LCM's onset is usually limited to two weeks after transmission, the other diseases may not begin to make you ill for up to five weeks.

  2. Gastrointestinal symptoms. All of these illnesses can include gastrointestinal distress such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. However, only about half of hantavirus patients experience these symptoms.

  3. Two-stage symptoms. With the exception of salmonellosis, these diseases have a two-stage pattern. The first stage of flu-like or gastrointestinal symptoms may resolve without incident, only to be followed by more serious symptoms after a few days of recovery. Because of this symptom presentation, it is very important that you not confuse them as two different physical conditions. Instead, these symptoms indicate progression of the disease to a much more serious phase. For instance, hantavirus' second stage involves acute shortness of breath as lungs fill with fluid. Leptospirosis' initial symptoms are followed by Weil's disease: meningitis, kidney, and liver failure. The second stage of LCM can include meningitis, encephalitis, hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), and inflammation of the heart or spinal cord.

If you have recently ridden your house or property of mice, be alert to your physical health and that of your family members over the next several weeks. Although any flu or gastrointestinal upset occurring during that time may just be a coincidence, it won't hurt to make an appointment with the doctor and explain the recent exposure to rodents. If a mouse-related illness is involved, early detection (through lab work) and treatment may make all the difference in a successful recovery.

To get in touch with pest control experts who can help you eradicate your mice infestation, go to websites like the one linked to in this sentence.