As we humans take over and expand our activities into the remaining natural environment, we come into closer contact with more species of rodents and more diseases. Apart from rats and mice, other well-known rodents that can carry diseases and come into human contact include prairie dogs, groundhogs, ground squirrels, lemmings and voles. In fact, rodents are thought to be responsible for more deaths than all the wars over the last 1,000 years.
Rodents carry a wide range of disease-causing organisms, including many species of bacteria, viruses, protozoa and helminths (worms). Rodents can also carry several parasites and diseases at the same time. Rodents act as vectors or reservoirs for many diseases via their ectoparasites such as fleas, ticks, lice and mites, as well as some diseases carried by mosquitoes.
How do these rodent-borne diseases get transmitted?
Inhalation or direct contact with rodent excreta (urine, faeces, saliva)
Bites from rodents — microorganisms carried in saliva can infect both humans and other rodents
Drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food
Rodents acting as sources for infecting ectoparasites (ticks, fleas, mites, lice) with various pathogens
Rodents can also act as reservoirs for various flying-insect-borne diseases
Scratches from rodents