Rodents can carry several types of bacteria and germs that can make you and your family very ill.
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a severe illness caused from exposure to the droppings or urine of deer mice that carry the virus. About 1- 5 hantavirus cases are reported each year in Washington State and about one third of the cases have been fatal. It is important to take precautions when cleaning up an enclosed space such as a shed, cabin or trailer where mice have nested or rodent droppings are present.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria called Leptospira that infects both humans and a wide range of animals. It occurs worldwide but is more common in temperate and tropical areas of the world. Some people infected with leptospirosis will have no symptoms at all, and some people will become severely ill. Some wild and domestic animals, such as cattle, pigs, dogs, raccoons, and rodents, carry the Leptospira bacteria and pass them in their urine. Soil or water contaminated with infected urine are the most common causes of human infection.
Plague is a serious infection of humans caused by a germ called Yersinia pestis. It is usually caused by the bite of a flea that has fed on an infected wild animal, such as a rat, chipmunk or prairie dog. It usually causes large sores and abscesses in the glands of the arms and legs. Dogs, and especially cats, can also become infected and can spread the disease to their human companions. Wild animals in Washington state do not carry plague germs, but people and domestic animals like dogs and cats could be bitten by infected fleas while traveling to other areas of the country. Plague is treatable with antibiotics.
Tularemia is a bacterial disease caused by Francisella tularensis and is most commonly found in wild animals (e.g., wild rodents, squirrels, rabbits, hares and beavers). People and their pets can become ill from tularemia by coming into contact with infected dead or ill animals through animal bites and exposure to contaminated blood or raw meat. Tularemia can also be transmitted by the bite of an infected arthropod (e.g. ticks, biting flies), exposure to contaminated water or soil, and inhalation of bacteria. One to 10 cases of tularemia in people are reported every year. To prevent exposures to tularemia, don't handle dead or ill animals; avoid animal bites, tick and deer fly bites; and avoid direct bare-hand contact with blood and raw meat from wild animals. Don't drink untreated water in areas where tularemia is known to occur in wild animals.