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Do Mice in Alberta Carry Disease?

The species of mice found in Alberta can carry harmful diseases, including salmonellosis, rickettsialpox and most notably, hantavirus. In addition, bacterial food poisoning occurs when infected rodent droppings contaminate foods. Mice can also carry parasites such as tapeworms and roundworms, which can transfer to pets and humans.

Managing mice in homes and businesses in Alberta is an integral part of maintaining the health of our community. Below, we discuss various diseases that mice carry and the associated symptoms and risks.

What is Salmonellosis?

Microscopic illustration of salmonellosis
Illustration of a Microscopic View of Salmonella Infection

Salmonella is the bacteria that causes salmonellosis and can transfer to humans through raw foods, animal droppings, and contaminated surfaces. Once infected, you will experience severe gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea, cramps, and a possible fever.

Although the symptoms of salmonellosis only last for less than a week, children and elderly adults may require emergency treatment. If you’ve contracted this disease, it is generally recommended to contact your doctor immediately.

Mice commonly carry the salmonella bacteria within their digestive tract, but they will not show symptoms of salmonellosis as humans do. The bacteria can be passed on through their feces. The feces or particles of feces can come in contact with surfaces and food, which humans then touch or ingest.

Because salmonella does not present symptoms in mice, the best way to prevent spread is to eliminate the presence of mice in your living space.

What is Rickettsialpox?

Rickettsialpox imagry 1
Clinical features of the eschar of rickettsialpox on the abdomen of patient 2 (with associated papulovesicles) (A) and the ankle of patient 10 (B). C, Histopathologic features of a typical eschar showing confluent epidermal necrosis. Engorged blood vessels in the superficial, mid, and deep dermis are surrounded by a dense mononuclear cell infiltrate (hematoxylin-eosin, original magnification 10). D, A higher magnification of the eschar’s histopathologic features showing the dense perivascular infiltrate of predominantly mononuclear cells and the dilated vessels containing erythrocytes (hematoxylin-eosin, original magnification 62.5)

Credit:
Published in Archives of dermatology 2003
Increased detection of rickettsialpox in a New York City hospital following the anthrax outbreak of 2001: use of immunohistochemistry for the rapid confirmation of cases in an era of bioterrorism.
Authors: T. Koss, E. Carter, M. Grossman, D. Silvers, A. Rabinowitz, J. Singleton, S. Zaki, C. Paddock

Rickettsialpox, caused by Rickettsia Akari, is transmitted to humans by the house mouse mite named Liponyssoides sanguineus. The disorder begins with the bite of an infected mite, which results in black scabbing appearing on your skin and, subsequently, other symptoms. The classic triad of rickettsialpox consists of fever, scabbing, and rash.

Rickettsialpox does go away naturally without treatment in 7–10 days. However, there are antibiotics found to be an effective treatment. These antibiotics include doxycycline, tetracycline, cefazolin, or chloramphenicol. Treatment will generally reduce the duration of symptoms to 48 hours.

Anyone bitten by infected mites can get rickettsialpox. Patients often report exposure to rodents in the home or workplace—most people who get infected experience only very mild illness or no illness at all.

The reservoir for rickettsialpox is that the house mouse and humans are infected only if mice or other preferred hosts are unavailable. Prevention of rickettsialpox involves controlling the mice population and using pesticides to kill the mites.

What is the Hantavirus?

Illustration of microscopic view of hantavirus

Credit:
The Next Pandemic: Hantavirus?
Author: Kess Rowe

There are 26 distinct strains of Hantaviruses identified to date. In 1993, the Sin Nombre virus (SNV) was isolated from several sick and deceased people in the southwestern United States. The illness caused a rapid onset and severe respiratory distress and was later named hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).

Although only a small number of cases are found each year in Canada, the 30% case fatality rate is concerning. In Alberta, the deer mouse is the preferred habitat for the hantavirus that causes HPS. Fortunately, common house mice are not ideal carriers of the disease. Unfortunately, deer mice are widespread throughout the province, so the disease can likely be found throughout Alberta.

The virus transmits to humans through a bite from an infected deer mouse. Human cases generally occur after contact with contaminated surfaces or food or breathing contaminated air.

Once inside, the virus enters human cells that line blood vessels in our lungs, weakening the vessel walls. Circulating fluid and cells then leak into the air spaces and obstruct airways. The onset of severe respiratory dysfunction calls for immediate admission to intensive care. There is no particular treatment for HPS, but the sooner the patient is admitted, the better the results.

Prevention of Mice-Related Diseases

Without a cure in place, prevention is even more vital. The best way to prevent HPS is to eliminate exposure to deer mice. Prevention includes covering holes into your house, making garbage inaccessible, keeping food in sealed containers, and decluttering your living space.

Mice cause damage by gnawing on insulation and building material, furniture, paper, clothing, and books. They contaminate (put germs on) food with their urine, hair, and droppings. Food can become contaminated with germs like salmonella. Mice also carry fleas, mites, and the disease hantavirus. When cleaning infested areas, wear latex or rubber gloves. DO NOT use a broom or vacuum because it contaminates the air with the virus. To avoid inhaling the virus, wear an appropriate, well-fitting filter mask, rubber gloves and goggles.

Some public health officials recommend spraying a dead deer mouse or an accumulation of mouse droppings with disinfectant. Once the affected areas are wet, clean up with a mop or rag and apply a second layer of disinfectant. Accumulated droppings or carcasses of deer mice should be properly disposed of.

Do You Have a Mouse Problem in Your Home or Business?

Edmonton Exterminators offers low-cost mouse prevention programs. All of our Technicians are fully licensed professionals that can help eliminate and prevent rodent infestations. Our prevention programs come complete with a FREE in-house treatment if rodents get into your home. Contact us now at 780-466-8535 for a complimentary rodent prevention quote.

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