Rat Diseases | Solutions to Rat Problems & Diseases

Rats are notorious for spreading a number of diseases, some of which can become deadly to humans. Safeguard specialises in the safe, fast and humane removal of rats to stop the spread of disease and keep your property clean and healthy.

Rats and other rodents have adapted to our ways of living and when left to breed and nest, can become a severe problem in any property.

In this article, we will be talking specifically about the types of diseases rats carry and why they are harmful to our wellbeing. We will also provide expert removal solutions to ensure that the infestation is not only eliminated but measures are put in place to ensure they do not return.

If you have a severe infestation in or around your commercial property, or you are seeking pest control advice, please contact our rat technicians today. 

If not, please continue reading our article on the different types of rat diseases.

Rodent diseases

Rodents carry a wide range of disease-causing organisms, including many species of bacteria, viruses, protozoa and helminths (worms). They also act as vectors or reservoirs for many diseases via their ectoparasites such as fleas, ticks, lice and mites, as well as some diseases carried by mosquitoes.

In fact, rodents are thought to be responsible for more deaths than all the wars over the last 1,000 years.

Rodents can also carry several parasites and diseases at the same time. A study of rats on farms in the UK found 13 zoonotic (infect humans) parasites and 10 non-zoonotic parasites, with some rats having nine zoonotic parasites at the same time. Many of these had rarely or never previously been investigated in wild rats (e.g. Cryptosporidium, Pasteurella, Listeria, Yersinia, Coxiella and Hantavirus), showing that the threat to human health is greater than previously thought.

How Do You Catch a Rat-Based Disease?

Other ways you can catch a rat borne disease include:

  • Touching contaminated objects that rats have encountered
  • Handling diseased rats or other rodents without gloves 
  • Being bitten or scratched by an infected rat
  • Host transmission – for example if your cat or dog has been in contact with an infected rat and they come into physical contact or eat it and therefore develop parasites

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rat pest control

Rat diseases can be caught through several ways, the most common is being direct inhalation or consumption of rat urine, faeces or saliva. For example, if a rat has urinated on packaged food or drink and it is confused, you are at a high risk of contracting a disease.

Below, we have outlined the major diseases that are associated with rats and vermin.

Rat Diseases 


One of the most common viruses associated with rodents. Arenaviruses are part of the Arenavierada family and typically cause mild to severe illnesses that can be associated with typical virus symptoms, including:

  • Sore throat and coughing
  • Fever
  • Constant headaches
  • Abdominal pain and vomiting

A full recovery is expected in most arenvirus cases. However the diseases caused from Arenaviridae can be fatal if not treated. For a full list of viruses from the Arenaviridae family, visit ND Health.

Bartonellosis (Trench fever)

Also known as trench fever and the cat scratch disease, Bartonellosis is typically transmitted via flea and lice, which are common among rats. People who work with animals, such as vets and animal groomers are at the highest risk of contracting Bartonellosis.

Symptoms are similar to those of the common fever, including fatigue, headache and nausea. However, patients may also experience skin rashes and lesions as well as osteomyelitis (infection of the bone).


This disease is caused by roundworm, which is a species of nematode. It is often found in rodents (predominantly rats) but can transfer itself to humans, and when left, the disease can become deadly, as the roundworm attacks the liver.

What happens?

When ingested by a human, the nematodes grow and begin to feed on the liver. Overtime, this causes loss of liver function and fibrous tissue production. 

The adult nematodes feed on the liver, slowly causing loss of liver function, inflammation (hepatitis) and abnormal fibrous tissue production as the liver responds to the death of the adults and the presence of eggs.


Symptoms are often difficult to identify initially, but as the worms lay their eggs inside you, you may develop symptoms of gepeaitisis, anemia, fever and hypereosinophilia. Untreated, this can lead to death.


Another worm-based disease, Echinococcosis is caused by tapeworms of the genus Echinococcus. Humans become infected by ingesting the parasite’s eggs; this can be done via eating contaminated food, drink or direct contact with a rat carrying the parasite.

The parasites can also find their way onto/into household pets such as cats and dogs. Treatment is often complex, with humans requiring drug therapy or in some cases, surgery.


Cysts are the most common sign of Echinococcosis, and these cysts are typically found in the liver and lungs. They can transmit to the kidneys spleen and in rare cases, the central nervous system. The result of these cysts can bring on feelings of nausea, coughing and chest pains.


Hantaviruses are a family of viruses typically spread by rats but can be spread by other rodents. It is spread to humans via aerosolized virus through urine, feces and saliva. While it can be transmitted through a bite, it is unlikely.


Symptoms include fever muscle aches (mainly in hips, thighs and the back) as well as nausea and dizziness. Fortunately, hantaviruses are not contagious from human to human. 


Also known as Weil’s disease, it is fairly uncommon in humans but it can be transmitted if broken skin (such as a wound) comes into contact with infected urine, soil or water. There are a number of species of the Leptospira genus, a few of which can evolve into Weil’s disease or even meningitis, which when left untreated can be fatal. Leptospirosis is not commonly found in the UK, it’s more of a tropical disease.


Symptoms usually appear around a week to two weeks after infection and consist of typical fever symptoms. These include coughing, sore throat, headaches, and vomiting. Some people may experience a rash, jaundice or irritated eyes.

Rat bite fever

Rat bite fever is passed from human to human when we come into contact with urine or mucus from a rat or similar vermin. Rat bite fever is quite rare and is not commonly found in the UK and is more common in Japan. People can also contract the disease by getting bitten by the animal, which can leave a nasty bite mark and infection if it is not cleaned quickly with antiseptic. 

Symptoms of rat bite fever include:

  • Ulceration at the bite site
  • A rash around the bite site (it may form reddish-brown plaques)
  • Fever
  • Chills and aches
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes

And in severe cases:

  • Infection of the heart
  • Pneumonia
  • Hepatitis
  • Meningitis

Rat bite fever can be treated with antibiotics and responds well to penicillin.

Rat tapeworm

Rat tapeworms are a type of Hymenolepis tapeworm that when left untreated can cause hymenolepiasis. This type of infection commonly affects children and those who live in poorly sanitised areas or properties. Humans become infected when they ingest dwarf tapeworm eggs, which can be done by consuming infected food or water as well as touching your mouth after touching contaminated areas.


Most people are asymptomatic, but can develop minor symptoms associated with the flu or a fever. It can be treated via a drug called praziquantel, which causes the tapeworm to dissolve within the intestine. 


Known popularly as Salmonella, this type of disease lives within the intestinal tracts of animals, predominantly chickens and rats. The disease lives within contaminated foods, such as chicken, pork, beef, milk or eggs. Sometimes vegetables can also carry the disease but this is less common. To ensure you do not contract salmonella, you must cook food thoroughly.

Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea 

Maintaining a strong hygiene routine should be enough to avoid the risk of salmonella.

The Plague

Many people may be unaware that the plague is still present in modern society. However, thanks to the advances of science, it is now far less deadly and much easier to cure. It is caused by a bacteria called Y. pestis, which is transmitted through pests such as squirrels, rabbits, mice and of course, rats. 

Left untreated, the plague can cause septicemic plague and pneumonia and these are both fatal. In fact, the plague can kill up to 60% of people who contract it if it is left untreated.

Symptoms are akin to a fever but can also evolve into organ failure and open sores.


This is a common infection humans can contract via infected cats, meat or excrement. In most cases, toxoplasmosis is harmless but it can cause serious problems for some people. Be sure to wear gloves if you are gardening and maintain a high standard of hygiene afterwards (wash your hands and clean all gardening apparatus). 


  • high temperature (fever)
  • aching muscles
  • tiredness
  • feeling sick
  • sore throat
  • swollen glands

If you do have symptoms, most people will make a full recovery with no treatment in about six weeks.


Also known as trichinosis, this disease is caused when people eat raw or undercooked meat that has come from infected animals. More specifically, trichinellosis occurs when we eat animals infected with larvae of Trichinella (a species of worm).  The most common animals that carry this disease are rats, cougars, pigs, and wild boars.

The first symptoms of trichinellosis are usually fever, nausea, dizziness and aches but they can evolve into breathing problems, severe dizziness and in extreme cases, death.


Also known as rabbit fever of deer fly fever, tularemia is one of the rarer diseases and can be very comfortable to deal with. It predominantly affects the skin, eyes, lymph nodes and in some cases the lungs. It is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis and occurs when you are bitten by an infected tick, which can be found on vermin. The disease can also be transmitted through handling infected rodents, eating and drinking contaminated foods or simply inhaling the bacteria.


Symptoms can manifest via:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sometimes a skin ulcer that forms at the infection site through an animal bite

Have a Rat Infestation? We Can Help 

At Safeguard, we are the experts when it comes to safely and humanely eradicating rats from all properties. If you fear you have an infestation and require immediate treatment do not hesitate to get in touch with our team today. 

We have over 30 year’s experience in the pest control industry and regularly undertaken rat removal jobs across the Midlands. With a ranger of treatment options available, we are able to offer a completely bespoke and comprehensive rat removal service.

From rodenticides to bait traps, we can help you remove all rats from your commercial property.

We Are BCPA-Certified

All Safeguard pest control technicians are BCPA qualified, which means we have more than enough experience and expertise to handle your rat removal efficiently. All jobs are undertaken in a fast, safe and humane method.

*We also ensure that all rat and pest removal treatments adhere to and comply with standard British health and safety regulations. This ensures the safety of your business and your staff.

Contact the Experts at Safeguard

Rat diseases can be extremely harmful to people, which is why it’s essential that as soon as you notice a rat in your property, you call the professionals. When left rats can multiply very quickly and this can lead to costly repairs and more importantly, pose a risk to the welfare and safety of your staff  and business.

After you have called Safeguard, you will rest assured knowing that your rat problem is in safe, qualified hands.

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