Diseases Caused by Rats

Diseases caused by rats
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Known for being nimble and agile, along with causing damage to property, rodents are also known to carry over 35 types of diseases. Rats and mice’s faeces, urine, saliva, bites and scratches, the ticks and fleas they carry and contact with a dead rodent are some of the most common reasons for rat diseases. There is no single rat disease, but several. Some can be treated easily, while others will require more serious medical treatment. If you’d like to find out more about diseases caused by rats in Australia, keep reading below.

Can rats transmit diseases to humans?

If you’re wondering whether rats can carry diseases in Australia, then the short answer is yes. Rats and mice can and do transmit diseases to humans. Some of these can be passed on from human to human, such as a mother to her unborn child, while others aren’t contagious.

Diseases caused by rats in Australia

While some diseases caused by rats are not as serious and can be overcome with antibiotics, others require much more serious and urgent medical attention. Also, the cause in some cases could be the rats’ urine, while in others the rat’s droppings. There are several rat diseases in Australia to be aware of, including their cause, transmission, symptoms and treatment. Each of these topics will be discussed in more detail below.

Rat-bite fever

  • Cause: Rat-bite fever is caused by a bite from a rodent. It can also be a result of a scratch wound from the rat or if you were in contact with a dead rodent. In addition, it’s possible to get this disease by eating or drinking food or water that has been contaminated by rat excreta.
  • Transmission: the good news is that this disease cannot be spread from human to human, yet medical attention will be required.
  • Symptoms: Fever, vomiting, headache, muscle pain, joint pain or swelling, rash.
  • Treatment: Seek medical assistance immediately, as antibiotics or different treatment needs to be prescribed. The disease has been known to lead to serious consequences if untreated, such as internal organs’ infections.


  • Cause: Leptospirosis is caused by Leptospira bacteria which are found in the urine of infected rodents.
  • Transmission: The bacteria are known to enter the body via cuts on the skin or through abrasions. In more rare cases, they enter through the lining of the eyes, nose and mouth. Further ways of transmission include exposure to contaminated water, soil, mud or even food. This disease is not known for being spread from one person to another.
  • Symptoms: Fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches (usually in the legs), red eyes, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, cough and sore throat.
  • Treatment: Once diagnosed through a blood test, the treatment usually involves the ingestion of antibiotics.


  • Cause: The breathing in of waste particles left by infected rodents.
  • Transmission: Through a rodent’s bodily fluids for example by touching the infected urine, saliva or faeces and then touching your mouth.
  • Symptoms: Coughing and difficulty breathing, fatigue, fever and muscle aches, headaches, nausea, blurred vision, low blood pressure, leaking blood vessels and even kidney failure in some cases.
  • Treatment: Seek medical treatment, which may include providing you with oxygen.


  • Cause: Salmonella bacteria
  • Transmission: Contaminated food, water or the hands as well as through rodents’ faeces.
  • Symptoms: Gastroenteritis, fever, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, headache, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, blood or mucus in stools.
  • Treatment: You may be advised to drink plenty of fluids such as water or oral rehydration drinks, and in some cases, you may be prescribed antibiotics.

Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis (LCM)

  • Cause: Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus
  • Transmission: Exposure to fresh urine, droppings, saliva, or nesting materials from infected rodents; when excreta get into damaged skin, the nose, mouth or the eyes; via the bite of an infected rodent.
  • Symptoms: Fever, malaise, lack of appetite, muscle aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, cough, joint pain, chest pain, testicular pain and parotid pain.
  • Treatment: Requires hospitalisation and supportive treatment. In some cases, drugs that prevent inflammation may be prescribed.

Tularemia (Rabbit Fever)

  • Cause: This is a bacterial disease caused by Francisella tularensis.
  • Transmission: Contact with infected, dead or ill animals through animal bites; bites from infected ticks or flies, coming into contact with contaminated water or soil; and breathing bacteria in.
  • Symptoms: Fever, headache, nausea, swollen lymph nodes, pneumonia and rashes.
  • Treatment: Seek expert medical attention for correct treatment, according to the case.


  • Cause: Rodent’s urine that’s transmitted in air particles.
  • Transmission: Inhalation into the lungs.
  • Symptoms: Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath.
  • Treatment: Oxygen supply and other medical treatment.

What protective measures to take?

Although these diseases caused by rats may appear frightening, they can be overcome if you take preventative steps to deal with rats and mice infestations.

  • Maintain good hygiene in and around your property.
  • Mop floors on a regular basis and use a bleach solution to disinfect surfaces.
  • Store food in airtight containers.
  • Dispose of food effectively and avoid leaving bits of food out in the open where rodents can get a hold of them.
  • Inspect all areas in your home and garden for possible rodent entry points.
  • Keep bins tightly closed and clean them regularly.
  • Don’t leave wood near sheds or walls as this is a good hiding spot for rodents. Rather elevate the wood to about 30 cm above the ground.
  • Remove unwanted growth and brush in your gardens as these are good nesting areas for rodents.
  • Avoid using open compost heaps.
  • Avoid leaving pet food unattended, especially outdoors. Remove it once your pets have eaten.
  • Minimise all contact with rodents.
  • Avoid sweeping or vacuuming rat faeces and urine directly.
  • Use protective gear when dealing with rat excreta and make sure you dispose of it correctly.
  • Cover rainwater tank openings as well as floor vents with wire mesh and check these for signs of gnawing regularly.
  • Check your air conditioning vents for signs of rodent activity.
  • Ensure that if you have a rat infestation that it doesn’t grow.
  • Installing rat traps can be one way of preventing an infestation but you should exercise extreme caution when handling the carcass of a dead rodent.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with a good antibacterial product after handling any dirt to prevent the spread of disease.

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Disclaimer: As a commercial pest control service provider, we strive to provide you with valuable and as accurate information as possible regarding rat diseases, their symptoms and possible treatment. Still, we do not offer medical advice and we encourage you to seek medical attention for adequate check-up and treatment.