What Diseases Do Mice Carry in South Florida?
January 11, 2024
Mice are common pests in south Florida, and their presence in human environments can lead to the transmission of various diseases. Florida has one of the highest incidence rates of salmonellosis in the US, a disease transmittable by mice. About 5000–6000 Salmonella cases are reported each year throughout the state.
Mice can spread diseases through their droppings, urine, saliva, and nesting materials. Direct contact with these materials, as well as bites from infected mice, can pose health risks to South Florida homeowners and their families.
The variety of diseases transmitted by mice includes bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections. Understanding the potential health threats mice pose is vital for effective pest control and safeguarding human health, especially in areas where infestations are common.
Mice are known vectors for several pathogens harmful to humans.
Direct contact with mice or their waste products can lead to disease transmission.
Awareness and proper control methods are crucial to minimize health risks from mice.
Common Diseases Carried by Mice
There are many diseases that are carried by and can be transmitted by mice and rats. The most common you will hear about are Hantavirus, Leptospirosis, Plague and Tularemia. The Hantavirus is an illness caused by exposure to droppings and urine typically when cleaning up sheds or any enclosed space where rodents have nested. This can be avoided by using proper PPE including gloves and masks while working in these areas. The other three are bacterial diseases typically contracted when ingesting contaminated water. The plague is actually spread by flea bites and is treatable with antibiotics.
David Smith, Native Pest Specialty Tech and Branch Manager
Here’s a look at some of the various infectious diseases that mice can carry which pose health risks to residents of South Florida.
Salmonella (Salmonellosis): Infection typically occurs through the consumption of contaminated food or water, but can also be acquired from rodents and other animals. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, and vomiting.
People can be infected by Salmonella bacteria if they do not wash their hands after contact with mouse droppings or if food, drink, or eating utensils are contaminated with rodent feces.
Leptospirosis: This infection often manifests with symptoms like fever, headache, muscle aches, and sometimes rash. It spreads through contact with water contaminated by infected mouse urine, and can be a prevalent issue following flooding or hurricanes in South Florida.
Rat-bite fever (RBF): This infectious disease is caused by two separate bacteria: Streptobacillus moniliformis (in North America) and Spirillum minus (more common in Asia). People are usually infected after contact with rodents that carry the bacteria, or through eating food or drinking water contaminated with their urine and droppings (this is called Haverhill fever).
Symptoms include vomiting, fever, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, and rash. If left untreated, RBF can be a serious or even fatal disease.
Hantavirus: Exposure to mouse droppings or soiled nesting materials can lead to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). The symptoms of hantavirus escalate from fever and muscle aches to severe or life-threatening heart and lung issues that require hospitalization.
Hantavirus is a relatively rare disease most often carried by the deer mouse, the most abundant mammal in North America. According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment options for hantavirus are limited, so the best protection is to avoid contact with mice and thoroughly clean their habitats.
Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (LCM): This viral infection is primarily found in the common house mouse (Mus musculus). Infection can occur after exposure to saliva, urine, droppings, or the bedding of an infected animal.
It starts with fever, headache, and muscle aches, progressing to neurological diseases in severe cases. Blood samples suggest that approximately 5% of people have been exposed to this virus; however, most have very mild or no signs of illness.
But pregnant women, even those showing no signs of illness, can transmit the virus to their fetus, potentially leading to fetal death or severe birth defects.
Mites, Fleas, and Ticks: These parasites can carry diseases such as Lassa fever and monkeypox, which can cause fever, rash, and headache. They transfer from infested mice to humans through bites.
Prevention and Control
There is no specific cure or vaccine for many of the diseases spread by mice, but early detection of rodent infestations can reduce the risk significantly. Effective protocols are covered in guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Tips for keeping mice and other rodents out of your house include:
Seal entry points: Use caulk and steel wool to seal cracks and holes in buildings where mice may enter.
Store food: Seal in rodent-proof containers to keep food safe. Put pet food away immediately after use.
Set traps: Place throughout your home to catch any existing mice and continue trapping until there are none left.
Contact a pro: Turn to a pest control professional for serious infestations or other concerns.
Sanitation and Safety Measures
If you have mice in or around your home, it’s important to clean up all urine, droppings (poop), dead rodents, and nesting materials safely.
Sanitation: Cleaning up surfaces with a regular household disinfectant is advised. Eliminate garbage promptly. Reduce clutter around the house where mice could nest.
Protective equipment: Always wear gloves and masks when handling rodent droppings to minimize exposure to infectious disease, as airborne pathogens can be stirred up by cleaning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here's what people often ask about the illnesses associated with mice.
What's the most widespread disease transmitted by mice?
The most widespread disease transmitted by mice is likely to be the hantavirus, which can spread through contact with mouse urine, droppings, or saliva, and by breathing in particles from rodent waste.
How likely is it for pet dogs to get diseases from mice?
Although less common, pet dogs can contract diseases from mice, such as tapeworms or ringworm, especially if they ingest infected rodents.
Is it safe to have a mouse as a pet?
Reduce the risk of disease exposure by acquiring yourpet mouse from a reputable vendor with an active health monitoring program. Take your pet to the vet for routine care. Wash your hands after feeding or handling the mouse. Young children and pregnant women should avoid contact with rodents.