What Are Rodent Droppings and Why Are They Dangerous?

Posted: May 17, 2021

Mice, Rats

Rodents aren’t just a nuisance because of their tendency to find and eat human food. They’re also a major pest concern because they can transmit a number of dangerous diseases to humans, primarily through droppings and direct contact with food. Rodents can easily invade a home, and one of the first signs of a rodent problem is finding droppings. Unfortunately, because these droppings can carry diseases, there are certain processes a homeowner needs to take to safely dispose of rodent poop.

Rodent droppings on wood highlighted with a red circle

What Do Mouse and Rat Droppings Look Like?

Typically, you’ll find rodent droppings near food sources. If you notice unusual debris near your pantry, kitchen cabinets, or garbage cans you may be looking at mouse or rat droppings.

Mouse droppings, or mouse poop, are small, dark brown pellets of fecal matter about the size of grains of rice. Mouse droppings are usually slightly tapered on the ends.

Rat droppings, or rat poop, can be found in similar locations, but they’re slightly larger than mouse droppings. They also tend to be shiny and black versus brown, and are not tapered at the ends.

Why Are Rodent Droppings Dangerous?

Rats and mice are known to carry pathogens that can cause more than 35 different diseases, many of which are airborne. If you have a rodent problem, it’s important to your health and safety that you find a way to get rid of them, and to do so safely. Here are some of the infectious diseases that mouse droppings and rat droppings carry that could be a danger to your household.

Hantavirus

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a potentially life-threatening disease that spreads mainly through the waste of deer mice. This virus can spread through direct contact with rodent urine or feces, through the consumption of contaminated foods, or even through a rodent bite. After exposure, the virus can take one to five weeks to fully develop, at which time flu-like symptoms may appear, such as fever, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and chills. Abdominal problems may result as well, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. If not properly treated, a hantavirus infection can prove fatal.

Salmonellosis

Salmonellosis is a disease caused by the bacterium salmonella, and it can be spread in a number of ways. Most people know this as a disease that spreads through contaminated food, and infected rodents can definitely be a cause of that. Salmonella causes food poisoning, and its symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. It’s not as serious of a disease as other rodent-borne infections, but it can still cause significant pain and distress for an extended period of time, especially if it’s left untreated.

Rat-Bite Fever

Rat-bite fever is a bacterial disease that spreads to humans through contact with an infected rodent or through eating food that a rodent has contaminated. It is caused by two different types of bacteria, Streptobacillus moniliformis (the kind primarily found in North America) and Spirillum minus (which can be found in Asia). According to the CDC, symptoms usually show up 3-10 days after exposure to an infected source, and can include fever, vomiting, headaches, rash and muscle pain. This disease is treatable by antibiotics.

Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis

Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (LCM) is also a viral infection caused by the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) that can spread through contact with rodents, especially the common house mouse. It may transmit through contact with a mouse’s urine or feces, touching its nesting materials, or a bite.

LCM has two primary infection phases. The first phase includes early symptoms of a viral infection, such as fatigue, fever, muscle aches, lack of appetite, headache, nausea, and vomiting. The second phase includes much more serious symptoms that can become neurological. According to the CDC, symptoms may include fever, headache, stiff neck, drowsiness, confusion, sensory disturbances, and/or motor abnormalities, such as paralysis. It may also cause an inflammation of both the brain and meninges. LCM is not usually fatal, but it can be severe enough for hospitalization, and it may be difficult for an infected individual to recover from the effects of the neurological symptoms.

Bubonic Plague

Perhaps the most famous rodent-caused sickness due to its effects on the European population during the Middle Ages, bubonic plague, or Black Death, is transmitted through rats that have been infected by fleas with the bacterium Yersinia pestis. However, since this disease is actually transmitted through infected fleas, you may also be exposed to it by untreated pets. In general, this bacteria can be transmitted through handling an infected animal or by coming in contact with contaminated fluid or tissue. Symptoms usually appear two to six days after exposure, and can include fever, headache, chills, and weakness, and one or more swollen, tender, and painful lymph nodes (called buboes). This disease can be treated fairly easily with antibiotics, but if left untreated, it can definitely lead to death.

Tularemia

Tularemia is a disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. It can be spread through contact with many different rodents, including hares and rabbits, through fly and tick bites, and through contaminated water and airborne dust particles.

There are several forms that tularemia symptoms can take, but the most common is the development of skin ulcers and swollen lymph nodes, which usually occur following a tick or deer fly bite or after handling an infected animal like a mouse or rat. A skin ulcer appears at the site where the organism entered the body and is accompanied by the swelling of localized lymph glands, usually in the armpit or groin. This disease can be life-threatening, but it can also be treated by antibiotics.

How to Get Rid of Rodent Droppings

Mouse droppings can continue to host pathogens long after a rodent problem is eliminated. While it may be tempting to quickly sweep up and throw out mouse droppings as soon as you notice them, it’s important for your health to follow proper procedures to thoroughly sanitize the area while limiting exposure to pathogens.

Before you start cleaning, contact a professional pest control company. If you don’t fully eliminate a rodent nest, you’ll find yourself with more droppings in no time. A professional exterminator can help you identify how the rodents are entering your home and develop a treatment plan based on your unique situation. Once you’ve got your appointment scheduled, you can start cleaning, and be diligent about continued sanitation until a professional arrives.

What You’ll need to Clean Rodent Droppings

In order to safely clean and dispose of rodent feces, you’ll need the right products and equipment. Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic bags
  • Paper towels or rags you don’t mind throwing away
  • A vacuum, or broom and dustpan
  • A bucket and mop
  • A mask or face covering
  • A spray bottle
  • A fabric steamer
  • Cleaning solution made with one part bleach, ten parts water

How to Clean and Sanitize Areas Contaminated with Droppings

  1. First, you’ll need to remove the rodent droppings. Make sure you’re wearing rubber gloves (latex gloves rip more easily) when handling the fecal matter. You should also wear a mask; when you move the droppings, you risk stirring up debris in the air that can be dangerous to breathe in. You can either vacuum the droppings or sweep the droppings into a dustpan and promptly dump them in a disposable plastic bag. Either way, you’ll want to make sure anything that touches the poop is thoroughly cleaned afterward.
  2. Next, spray the area down with your bleach disinfectant. Bleach is one of the most effective products you can use to ensure your home is free of rodent pathogens. It will be strong if not diluted, so be sure to mix your solution with water. Let the bleach sit for five minutes, then re-apply and wait for up to thirty minutes. You’ll also want to mop the floor with your cleaning solution.
  3. After the area has soaked, wipe up any excess solution. You can use paper towels or an old rag to sop up any leftover bleach.
  4. Treat fabrics with hot water or steam. While bleach is the recommended method to disinfect, you can also use a fabric steamer on couches and other furniture. Any exposed linens should be washed with hot water and high quality detergent.
  5. Clean up after your clean up. Once all areas have been treated, remove your personal protective equipment. Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and hot water.

Rodent Control

A rodent infestation that gets out of control can leave you susceptible to significant health risks, which is why it’s a good idea to prevent them from entering your home or business in the first place. But if an infestation does begin to develop, a pest control service is your best bet to quickly handle mice and rats. At Dodson Pest Control, we offer free inspections to help you solve your rodent problem.

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