Disease Risk From Pests In Your Home
What Pests, Carry & Spread Disease?
Some pests are more critical than others with respect to disease. For this reason, we shall quickly separate pests into two groups.
Pests which are injurious to health and pests that are just a nuisance or cause damage to property. Sometimes there is an overlap in this, but for simplicity, we will focus on those considered injurious to human health.
Pests we describe as injurious to human health may bite, and sting, but more concerning to human populations across the globe is a pest’s ability to spread or transmit pathogenic microorganisms or microbes.
Pests most likely to spread disease (also called vectors) include pests feeding on or having exposure to:
- Animal blood, faeces and carcasses – fleas, rats, and bedbugs, etc.
- Waste materials, sewage, and food – flies, beetles, and wasps, etc.
How Are Pest Diseases Spread?
Pests pick up harmful microorganisms on their bodies and inside their bodies as they feed and forage. When these pests enter our homes, they inevitably deposit pathogens (pathogen=disease causing) on surfaces and exposed foods.
Insects that bite, like mosquitoes, fleas and bed bugs can cause severe reactions in the skin, contaminate the blood and the body, turning the human host into a reservoir of disease.
This cross-contamination leads to illness in humans but is easily avoided with pest exclusion, control, and monitoring, together with good housekeeping and maintenance practices.
How Easily Are Diseases Passed To Humans From Pests?
Although your chances of severe infection are very small, people die from exposure to pest-borne diseases in the UK every year.
The likelihood of disease transmission increases with both exposure to a specific microorganism, route of infection and the health and disease resistance of the individual in question.
Who Is Most At Risk From Disease?
You are more likely to suffer catastrophic consequences of disease if you are immunosuppressed. A term used to describe people with an immune system is not working. These people are termed “susceptible hosts” susceptible because they are:
- Suffering from chronic (long-term) disease
- Using antibiotics
- Undergoing Immunosuppressive therapy
- Recovering from surgery
- Undergoing chemotherapy
- Using cytotoxic drugs
- Very young (under one year)
How do people become Infected?
“Mode of transmission” is a term used to describe how a person becomes infected. I’m sure you think this is common sense, and it is, but let’s delve deeper and glance at the types of transmission.
Contact transmission is easily the most common form of transmission and is divided into four categories.
Direct contact – this might be where you touch a pool of rat urine.
Indirect contact – this might be where you touch a pen (or another object) that became contaminated with rat urine on it.
Droplet transmission – Not relevant to pests, but refers to respiratory secretions coughed or sneezed into the air near you.
Airborne transmission – As rodent, bird and insect faeces begin to dry, they break down into particles that easily become airborne. These particles contain viruses, bacteria, and fungi that can cause respiratory and systemic disease.
Should You Worry About Diseases From Pests?
Yes and No!
let’s make things simple! A hazard (e.g., bacteria) is something that can do you harm, and the risk is the likelihood the hazard (e.g., bacteria) will do you harm. So this all comes down to exposure.
The more you exposed you become to a given hazard, the more likely it becomes you will get sick, get injured or be detrimentally affected.
As an example, lots of rats mean lots of urine, lots of faeces and lots of damage to wiring, plastic pipes, etc.
What Is The Infective Dose
The infective dose of any microorganism, like bacteria and viruses is vital to consider. The infective dose of any microorganism is simply an estimate of how many microbes of a given species it takes to make you sick.
Imagine a virus, so small it can infect bacteria! Exposure to just a few of these could be all that is needed for you develop (incubate) the illness it manifests.
In the case of bacteria, it usually requires hundreds of bacteria to be effective at establishing sufficient numbers of bacteria to make you sick.
The more exposure you have to a disease-causing microorganism or pathogen, the more likely it is you will get sick.
Prevention is always better than a cure. Get rid of the hazard, and the risk no longer exists – simple!
Protecting Yourself From Disease
Protection of your immediate environment (occupied or living spaces) is paramount.
Simple Steps To Protect Yourself
Prioritise professional help and guidance
If you are struggling with a low budget, you should still get a professional inspection. Always ensure the pest professional is also prepared to offer advice for DIY control based on their findings.
Damage and contamination are cumulative. Avoiding this step could mean you waste time and money doing things the wrong way.
Discover the source or sources of infestation
Once you identify the source of the infestation, you better understand what you’re up against. Every pest has a source of the infestation and finding it will be a game-changer for you.
Elimination is rarely possible without knowing where the pests have originated.
Implement control and elimination
Sometimes achieving control and elimination is simple! Filling a tiny hole on the outside of your home with wire wool and silicone sealant is a common example of controlling mice.
The faster extermination occurs, the sooner you are out of any potential danger from ongoing microbial re-contamination.
Protect all Food products from exposure
Consider storing food products in robust storage boxes while pests are active. Most food packaging offers little defence against pest infestation, especially from rodents. Discard any products that have already been damaged or contaminated.
Disinfect all food preparation surfaces
Antibacterial wipes can be a cheap and effective means of eliminating pathogenic microbes from food prep surfaces. You can never be too clean!
Outside the box thinking always helps – so consider protecting other essential items and surfaces like toothbrushes, tabletops, and cooking utensils.
Wash all exposed crockery and cutlery
Crockery stored at a low level, contaminated with rodent urine and faeces is common. If rodents can access kitchen cabinets, consider extra precautions for their use.
We hope this has been of value to you and wish you the very best of luck eliminating your pest problems.