Rodent-Borne Pathogens You Should Know About

Here at Meat & Livestock Commission we understand the issues rodents can have on farms and livestock more generally. This is why it is important for you to know about different types of pathogens that rodents can carry, in order to protect your meat and livestock.

Many people may not realise, but COVID-19 lockdowns have caused rats to scamper all over the city streets looking for food. Now that people are always hiding indoors to avoid catching the virus, rats and mice are left to search for food outdoors. They cannot feed on people’s leftovers anymore or lick off oil from floors and counters. They can also no longer hang around restaurants that are closed due to the pandemic. 

The British Pest Control Association (BPCA) noticed an increase in rat activity during the first lockdown in March 2020 where 50% of pest controllers were busy chasing rodents. By October, 80% of their pest controllers noticed an uptick in rodent infestations. 

Rodents are attracted to food and shelter. When it is cold outside they see an opportunity to get into your home. They will try to fit themselves into holes just to be able to keep warm. And if they like it there, chances are, they will make your home theirs, too.

Such situations are common in rented properties with housing disrepair issues. 

One such case is that of a pregnant single mum and her two-year old child who had to deal with rodents ever since they moved into a council house. The Birmingham Council put them there so they could get away from the physical abuse they were experiencing in their previous home. They did not have a choice where to go because the Birmingham Council property was the only one available for them.

Sian (not her real name) and her daughter had sleepless nights because they would often hear mice behind the walls. In one instance, one rodent fell into a vase and injured itself and another ran between floorboards, and she and her daughter could see the little thin tail slowly disappearing underneath.

Pathogens from rodents

Unfortunately, this family living in the Birmingham Council house is at risk for contracting diseases that are caused by rodents. Here are five diseases that can be transmitted when you get in contact with rodents: 


This bacteria causes leptospirosis and it thrives in the urine of animals. You can contract this disease if your skin gets in direct contact with the urine of rodents. 

Symptoms are:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle ache
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin rash

Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis virus

This virus causes the disease of the same name. Its primary host is something found in many homes with disrepair—the common house mouse. The fresh urine, droppings, saliva, and nesting materials of this common pest harbour the virus.

Symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Lack of appetite
  • Muscle ache
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


The hantavirus can cause two diseases: hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome.

The hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is also caused by an infection. It is transmitted by touching something that is contaminated. In its early stages, the symptoms are fatigue, fever, and muscle ache. About 10 days after infection, symptoms progress to coughing and shortness of breath.

The haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome usually develops within one to two weeks after exposure. Its symptoms are pretty much the same as all the others except that this one can also cause chills and blurred vision.


Infestations are quite common in both tropical and cold regions. However, in the UK, rat and mouse infestation is more prevalent in cold weather, when the rodents seek food and shelter.

If your home does not have holes, gaps, or cracks in its external walls, rodent infestation shouldn’t be a problem. However, if your house has structural issues, you need to address that problem first to ensure you’re not inadvertently providing rodents access into the structure. Mice and rats seek shelter when the outdoors is too cold for them; therefore, the hole in your external wall will serve as their refuge. 

Other reasons why rodents infest your home include clutter, leftovers, dirty laundry, and just about anything they can deem to be ideal nesting materials.

What to do about infestations

The disrepair in your home plays a role in inviting your rodent friends inside, so you should do something about it. 

After clearing your rented home of clutter and rubbish, report the infestation to your landlord. Send them photos and videos of the infestation and structural disrepair via email so you will have a paper trail of your correspondence. 

Give them a maximum of 21 days to respond to your report and take action. If they do not respond to you within that period, email them again. If your landlord continues ignoring your repair requests, you can forward your complaint to professionals who can claim disrepair compensation on your behalf. They can handle your housing compensation claim for you.

Meat & Livestock Commission understand that the housing disrepair experts at are well-equipped to help you reach out to your landlord and get compensated for the distress that the disrepair in your home has caused you.