Pests & Disease 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 three groups:
- Pests of medical importance (vectors of disease & injurious to health)
- Pests of economic importance (damaging to property and food)
- Nuisance pests (non-destructive)
Sometimes an overlap occurs, but for simplicity, we must focus on those we know injurious to human health.
Pests we know to be injurious to human health may bite, and sting, but won’t always carry disease. More concerning is a pest’s capacity to transmit disease-causing germs!
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 Do Pests Transmit Disease?
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.
Pathogens are “disease causing” germs that include bacteria and viruses. These are often deposited by pests on surfaces and unprotected foods.
Insects that bite, like mosquitoes, fleas and bed bugs sometimes cause severe reactions in the skin. Insect bites also contaminate the blood and body, turning the human host into a carrier or reservoir of disease.
Eliminate cross-contamination from pests by completing pest exclusion, control, monitoring, housekeeping and maintenance.
Is Pest Borne Disease Common?
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?
Immunosuppressed people are likely to suffer the catastrophic consequences of the disease. 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?
We describe the ways in which people become infected as “Mode of transmission”. 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 the most common form of transmission, 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 Pest Diseases?
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 greater the exposure, the greater the likelihood of significant illness.
As an example, lots of rats mean lots of urine, lots of faeces and lots of damage to wiring, plastic pipes, etc.
What Is An 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 will support development (incubation) of the illness it manifests.
In the case of bacteria, an infective dose will require the ingestion of hundreds of bacteria to cause sickness.
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!
Protect 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. Select pest professionals 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 an 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 suspect hole on the outside of your home 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. Most food packaging offers little defence against pest infestation, especially from rodents. Discard all contaminated items.
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. Consider protecting other essential items and surfaces like toothbrushes, tabletops, and cooking utensils.
Wash all exposed crockery and cutlery
Rodents routinely contaminate crockery stored on low-level shelving with rodent urine and faeces. If rodents can access kitchen cabinets, consider extra precautions for their use.