9 January 2012

Diseases caused by rats

There are numerous diseases caused by rats and other rodent  which some people are not aware of it. Today am going to discuss about some diseases caused by rats, how to know when you have a rat in your home, what damage they can cause and steps on to prevent rats influx in your home or garden.

Murine Typhus: Murine typhus (caused by infection with R. typhi) occurs worldwide and is transmitted to humans by rat fleas. Flea-infested rats can be found throughout the year in humid tropical environments, but in temperate regions are most common during the warm summer months.

Caution: Travelers who visit in rat-infested buildings and homes, especially in harbor or riverine environments, can be at risk for exposure to the agent of murine typhus.

Rat-bite fever (RBF): Rat-bite fever (RBF) is a systemic bacterial illness caused by Streptobacillus moniliformis that can be acquired through the bite or scratch of a rodent or the ingestion of food or water contaminated with rat feces.

Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium: As its name suggests, it causes a typhoid-like disease in mice. In humans S. Typhimurium does not cause as severe disease as S. Typhi, and is not normally fatal. The disease is characterized by diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and nausea, and generally lasts up to 7 days. Unfortunately, in immune compromised people, that is the elderly, young, or people with depressed immune systems, Salmonella infections are often fatal if they are not treated with antibiotics.

Leptospirosis: Is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans it causes a wide range of symptoms, and some infected persons may have no symptoms at all. Symptoms of leptospirosis include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting, and may include jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or a rash.

Two years ago leptospirosis attacked Malaysia and several Asian countries. However, various measures were taken by the Government and now Malaysia are free from Leptospirosis.

Caution: If the disease is not treated, the patient could develop kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, and respiratory distress. In rare cases death occurs.

Eosinophilic Meningitis: Eosinophilic meningitis is an infection of the brain occurring in association with an increase in the number of eosinophils, white blood cells that are associated with infection with worms that penetrate into the body. The organism most commonly causing eosinophilic meningitis is a rat lung worm called angiostrongylus cantonensis.

Signs of a Rat Problem
Rats are nocturnal (night walkers) and usually hide from humans, therefore typical signs to look for in the home and garden are:

Scratching noises: - in walls, under the floor or under decking as rats scurry (run around) around looking for food.
Distinctive smell: – rats leave an ammonia-like smell that will be particularly strong in enclosed areas such as under cupboards, in loft spaces, garages, sheds or under decking.

Damage – rats have teeth that grow continuously and gnaw (chew) on wood, plastic and even mild steel to keep them trim. Rats can even cause fires by chewing through cables and wiring.
Ripped food packaging – rats will tear open all types of packaging to find food which may leave teeth marks.

Nests: rats build nests in warm, hidden places using shredded material such as newspaper, plastic and fabrics. Nests will often contain young rats.
Burrows: - In gardens, rats will dig burrows especially in compost heaps or under sheds. They will also build nests under garden decking.

Prevent rats influx
Step 1
Remove their food sources, water, and items that provide shelter for them.

Step 2
Seal up holes inside and outside the home to prevent entries. Hmm.. Where?

Where to you look for gaps or holes inside your home?
Check inside, under, and behind kitchen cabinets, refrigerators, stoves, inside the closets near the floor corners.

Check round the pipes under sinks, washing machines, around the pipes going to hot water heaters and furnaces.

Check around floor vents, dryer vents, inside the attic, in the basement and laundry room floor drains. Check between the floor and wall juncture.

Where to look for gaps or holes outside your home?
Check the roof among the rafters, gables, eaves, around windows and doors.

Check around the foundation, attic vents, crawl space vents and under the doors.

Check around holes for electrical, plumbing, cable, and gas lines.

Fill small holes with steel wool, cement, hardware cloth, or metal sheeting to fix large holes. 

Caution: If you do not remember to seal up entry holes in your home, rats or other rodents will continue to get inside.

Step 3
Clean Up Clean Up Clean Up

Clean up rodent food sources and nesting site and keep food in thick plastic or metal containers with tight lids. Prevent contact with rats by cleaning up your home, workplace, campsite and eliminate possible rat’s food sources:

Keep food in thick plastic or metal containers with tight lids and clean up spilled food right away wash dishes and cooking utensils soon after use. Keep outside cooking areas and grills clean.

Keep compost bins as far away from the house as possible (100 feet or more is best). Grains and animal feed should be kept in a thick plastic or metal containers with tight lids. 

Caution: If storing trash and food waste inside the home, do so in rodent-proof containers, and frequently clean the containers with soap and water. Dispose of trash and garbage on a frequent and regular basis, and pick up or eliminate clutter.

Eliminate possible nesting sites outside the home. Elevate hay, woodpiles, and garbage cans at least 1 foot off the ground. Get rid of old trucks, cars, and old tires that mice and rats could use as homes. Keep grass cut short and shrubbery within 100 feet of the home well trimmed.

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