What are the dangers of cleaning up rat feces?

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What are the dangers of cleaning up rat feces?
Rat droppings can carry many harmful viruses. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Homeowners with a rodent infestation should exercise extreme caution before handling rat droppings. Rat faeces carry a number of potentially fatal diseases that spread to humans, usually by hand-to-mouth contact. To eliminate the risk of contracting viruses, rodent infestations and faeces removal should be carried out by trained pest control companies. Rat droppings are blunt or pointed spindles of between 0.6 inches and 0.8 inches in length and are dark in colour.

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Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, discovered in 1993, is a rare disease found in the United States. The potentially deadly virus transfers through rat urine and droppings. Aching, tiredness and a fever are early signs of an infection and the large muscle groups are most commonly affected. As the disease develops, headaches, nausea and vomiting are prevalent. The late symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome are coughing and a shortness of breath that resembles being smothered by a pillow. Symptoms appear after one to five weeks of contact with rat faeces and infections are often fatal.

Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome

Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, or HFRS, is a global illness derived from the Seoul, Hantaan and Puumala viruses. Often found in Eastern Asia, HFRS transfers through the droppings, urine and saliva of rats. Unlike other diseases, HFRS passes from human to human although this is quite rare. Incubation takes 1 to 2 weeks and symptoms include violent headaches, abdominal pain, fever and blurred vision. Fatality rates can be as high as 15 per cent but supportive therapy combined with fluid and electrolyte intake usually proves to be an effective remedy.

Arenaviridae

Arenaviridae are a family of viruses transmitted through rat droppings and urine. Common diseases include Lassa fever and Brazilian hemorrhagic fever, which are specific to one particular species of rat in each case. Arenaviridae is particularly common in South America and has unique strains found in counties such as Bolivia, Venezuela and Argentina. Agricultural workers are often prone to viruses and in many instances, diseases pass from person to person by airborne transmission. Flu-like symptoms are common and some strains of the virus result in blood being found in human urine and stools.

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis transfers to humans when rat faeces are cleared from wet or damp areas during an infestation. The rodent often urinates at the same time as it produces droppings, which results in cross-contamination of water and a greater risk of contracting multiple diseases. Symptoms include jaundice, rashes, abdominal pain and red eyes. Leptospirosis requires antibiotic treatments and the disease is often contracted by sewage workers, water sports enthusiasts and children.

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