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Is rat poop toxic for dogs?

Virus Risk: Why Sweeping & Vacuuming Rat & Mice Droppings Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Rats and mice are dangerous from a public health standpoint because they can transmit disease through their waste. For that reason, properly removing rodent feces and urine is very important. Rats and mice can also be destructive because they can chew through plastic, wood, soft concrete, glass, rubber, even electrical wire that if it sparks, could start a fire. Some questions answered:

How should residents properly get rid of rat or mouse droppings and other rodent evidence?

The most important thing to remember is to never sweep or vacuum rodent evidence including feces, urine and nesting material. When these substances are swept or vacuumed they can break up, forcing virus particles into the air where they can easily be inhaled, infecting the person doing the cleaning. Hantavirus and Arenavirus are transmitted in this manner.

Steps for proper cleaning:

1. Make a solution of one-part bleach and nine-parts water in a spray bottle or use a general purpose household disinfectant.

2. Wearing rubber or plastic gloves, spray the solution or disinfectant on the dried urine, feces and nesting material until the substances are soaking wet.

3. Let the wet materials soak for five minutes.

4. After five minutes, use a damp paper towel to wipe up urine, droppings and nesting material.

5. Place the paper towel and waste materials in a plastic bag.

6. Then, using the same solution or disinfectant, mop or sponge off the area where the rodent evidence was located.

7. Once finished, put the sponge or mop head into the bag with the rodent evidence.

8. Wash gloved hands with soap and warm water or spray with disinfectant or solution before removing them. Place them in the plastic bag as well.

9. Seal the bag and place in a lidded garbage can.

10. Wash the now un-gloved hands with soap and water.

Once the newly cleaned area is dry (in approximately 30 minutes) it’s ready for reuse.

Would you tell us more about the diseases rats can transmit to humans?

Rats and mice carry two main types of disease in their waste: Salmonellosis and Leptospirosis. Salmonellosis is a type of food poisoning. When a rat or mouse walks through their own droppings or urine, then walks through human food, that transfer of bacteria from the droppings and urine can contaminate the food – making someone sick if they unknowingly eat the contaminated food. Leptosirosis is also a bacterial type of food poisoning that can contaminate food or water in the same method as Salmonellosis.

Rats can also carry a viral disease that is released when dried feces, urine or saliva break up. That virus can be inhaled, causing respiratory illness. That’s why it is so important to carefully clean up any evidence of a rat or mouse.

When do folks typically find evidence of a rat or mouse in their home?

It can happen at any time of year when folks hear scratching, movement or gnawing typically in a cabinet, behind an appliance, in a closet, in a crawlspace, or behind a hot water heater. When the homeowner looks to see what’s making the noise, that’s when they notice evidence of a rat or mouse. Another common time people discover rodent evidence is when they start pulling out the patio furniture, looking in the grill, getting in the garage or shed at the start of spring. At that time, folks are likely to see where the rat or mouse took up residence during the winter.

When people see rat or mouse droppings it’s pretty clear what they are, but dried urine isn’t as easy to detect. What’s a tell-tale sign?

Most of the time there is a spot that looks like a water stain near other evidence or droppings. If there is a large amount, there can also be a
pungent odor. Other evidence that can be found is the rodent’s nesting material which usually includes paper, tissues, insulation, or furniture stuffing.

So, the bottom line is?

Look carefully for evidence of rat droppings, urine and nesting materials and be sure to follow the steps to dispose of it and disinfect the area properly. Most importantly, NEVER sweep or vacuum that evidence because of the risk of transmitting vector-borne disease in the process.

Domestic Rat Care and Human Safety

Many people own and enjoy pet rats. However, pet rats, even when they look clean and healthy, can carry germs that can make people sick.

A clean environment will help reduce the chance of the rat becoming sick and spreading germs to humans. Taking proper care of your animal is important to your own safety.

Seoul hantavirus and other germs like Salmonella, Giardia, and rat bite fever can be spread through the urine, feces, and saliva of recently infected rats. When caring for a pet rat, it is important to keep the animal’s cage and environment as clean as possible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that families with children under 5 years of age, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems not have pet rodents because these groups are at higher risk of serious illness.

DHS Resources on Animal Care and Human Safety

  • Safety guidelines for rodent owners (PDF)
Safety Tips for You and Your Rats
  1. Wash your handsimmediately after touching, feeding, or caring for pet rats or cleaning their habitats.
  2. Keep pet rats and their supplies out of the kitchen or other areas where food is prepared, served, or consumed.
  3. Play safely. Do not kiss, nuzzle, or hold rats close to your face. This can startle your rats and also increase your chances of being bitten. Bites can spread germs and can make you sick.
  4. You don’t have to touch pet rats to get sick from their germs. Some of the germs rats carry are found in their saliva, feces, or urine and can get into the air when they dry.

Recommendations for Cleaning Up After Rats

Take the following precautions before, during, and after a cleaning an area that was occupied by rats (either due to infestation or when cleaning rat housing environments and habitats):

To clean up any urine and droppings:

  • Wear rubber, latex, or vinyl gloves when cleaning rat urine and droppings.
  • Do not stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming up rat urine, droppings, or nesting materials.
  • Spray the urine and droppings with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water and let soak for 5 minutes.
  • Use a paper towel to pick up the urine and droppings, and dispose of the waste in the garbage.
  • After the rat urine and droppings have been removed, disinfect surfaces and items that might have been contaminated by rats or their urine and droppings.
Disinfectant Dilution Recommendations
  • The recommended dilution of bleach solution is 1 part bleach to 10 parts water (10% solution).
  • When using a commercial disinfectant, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label for dilution and disinfection time.

When you are done cleaning:

  • Remove gloves and put in the garbage.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
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