Mouse in the House: Can Rodent Poop Make You Sick?

a mouse with some potentially disease causing mouse poopHumans have a lot to offer mice: scraps of food and nesting materials, along with warmth from the structures we build. That’s why mice choose to live in such close proximity to us. But what do mice give us in return? Deposits of mouse feces and urine, nesting detritus, scurrying sounds. It’s not a fair trade, especially not when you start asking “can rodent poop make you sick?”

As obvious as it is, mouse poop is extremely unhygienic and you should never touch it with your bare hands. It can also be a problem if a pet finds it, touches it, and tracks it around your home. The possibility of mouse poop lingering around your house is one of the best reasons why you should always call a professional rodent exterminator at the first sign of trouble.

Any Mouse Waste Is a Potential Disease Vector

It’s not just a mouse’s poop that has the potential to make you very sick. Mouse urine, mouse saliva, and mouse nesting materials also carry considerable risk. The fact is that if you have a bacteria-carrying mouse (or other species of rodent) in your home, it will spread it many different ways.

What Does Rodent Poop Look Like?

Mouse poop is dark brown in color, pellet-shaped, and each piece is a tad smaller than a grain of rice. Rat poop looks similar, but about 20% larger. Essentially, if you find something that you think could be rodent poop in your house, it probably is. It looks pretty much exactly what you think it looks like. The more difficult question is determining which rodent it is since they all look similar, but an experienced rodent exterminator can help you tell rat poop and mouse poop apart.

Urine can blend in and be hard to notice depending on where the rodents decide to go. Sometimes you’ll notice dampness, or if it’s dried it will leave behind a residue. 

Nesting materials can include anything from your house that a rodent has scavenged to use for its nest. They will often take insulation or furniture stuffing, paper, rags, or tissue – anything they can get their tiny paws on.

Again, some obvious advice here, but: do not touch the urine – whether it’s damp or dry – or the nesting materials with your exposed skin. Also, DON’T try to vacuum or sweep it up. Instead, make sure you use this method for cleaning rodent waste products:

How to Properly Clean Mouse Waste in Your Home

Your first instinct upon finding mouse droppings in your home might be to clean it up immediately and as quickly as possible. Resist that urge because the most important thing is to clean it properly. All of these waste products contain bacteria that don’t go away no matter how long they sit there. If you sweep or vacuum them up, the pathogens will go airborne.

Here are the steps to cleaning mouse poop safely and effectively:

  • Use a disinfectant or bleach solution of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach. Wear a tight-fitting N-95 or higher mask and rubber gloves as you spray the waste and surrounding area. Allow to sit for five minutes
  • Use paper towels to fully wipe up the waste. Place paper towels and waste in a plastic bag, tie it off, and throw it away
  • Mop the area with disinfectant. Spray nearby surfaces with disinfectant
  • When you’re finished cleaning, spray your rubber gloves with disinfectant and wash them with soap and water before taking them off. Otherwise, the bacteria on the gloves might get flung when you take them off
  • Take off the gloves and wash your hands thoroughly in hot soapy water

What Diseases Can You Get from Mouse Poop?

Harmful bacteria, pathogens, parasites abound in mouse droppings. It’s like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. But there is one virus that’s mentioned above all others when discussing rodents: hantavirus.

Though rare, hantavirus can be devastating. Early symptoms resemble a severe flu, with fever, muscle aches, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. As it worsens, the lungs fill with fluid. Hospital care is often needed to get well from hantavirus, and its mortality rate is somewhere between thirty and forty percent.

Those who do not contract hantavirus from rodent waste may also still be at risk of salmonellosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, or other diseases. Exposure may also trigger allergic reactions or asthma attacks.

What Should I Do If I See Mouse or Rat Poop (or Other Rodent Droppings)?

We cannot emphasize it enough: if you find mouse poop in your attic or basement or anywhere else in your home, limit your exposure. Make sure children or pets don’t come in contact with it. If you have to be in the same room with it for a prolonged period, wear a mask. And clean it up using the appropriate technique outlined above.

Once you’ve eliminated the danger from the droppings, your next step should be to call a professional rodent exterminator immediately. A rodent removal technician can accurately assess the scope of the problem and get it solved quickly and effectively.

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