Many common household pests pose a threat to human health. Rodents and a range of insects spread diseases, contaminate food, and trigger allergic reactions.
These creatures make themselves at home alongside us in their search for food and a place to reproduce. And they bring with them multiple threats to our health, including:
- E. coli.
Which pests put our health at risk?
Pests that pose a risk to human health include:
- Mice and rats, which carry various organisms that cause diseases such as food poisoning.
- Flies, which pose a risk of cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery.
- Bed bugs, which can cause allergic reactions.
- Lice, which cause skin rashes and transmit diseases that cause fevers.
- Ticks, which can pass disease from a pest to a human.
- Cockroaches, which can trigger allergies and asthma attacks.
How pests spread diseases
Rats and mice spread diseases such as salmonella and E. coli when we consume food contaminated by their droppings.
Food contaminated with bacteria from cockroaches and houseflies cause diseases such as gastroenteritis and dysentery.
Bites from ticks infected with a bacterium or virus cause diseases such as encephalitis – inflammation of the brain.
While bed bugs aren’t known to carry diseases, their bites can trigger infections and allergies.
How pests cause allergic reactions
Contact with pests runs the risk of developing allergies including life-threatening reactions, particularly among children, older people, and anyone with a weakened immune system.
These allergies can be caused by:
- Bee and wasp stings, which can trigger severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.
- Faeces, saliva and carcases of cockroaches, which can cause breathing difficulties.
- Airborne particles from droppings and dead bodies of dust mites, which can cause lung infection.
- Reaction to bed bug bites, resulting in painful swelling.
Do birds spread diseases?
Common garden birds, pigeons and gulls that take up residence in homes may carry many diseases that can be passed to humans through inhalation of airborne particles from dried faeces, feather dust, or respiratory secretions.
These health issues include psittacosis – parrot fever – an acute respiratory disease. And pigeon and gull droppings contain a fungus that can cause infections if inhaled by people with weakened immunity.
Are mosquitoes a health risk in the UK?
No mosquito-borne diseases are currently circulating among humans in the UK.
However, a study reported in the Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal predicted that climate change and higher average temperatures could make the UK a more inviting place for mosquitoes. And there are fears that malaria and dengue fever could arrive on our shores by 2030.
According to the UK Health Security Agency, mosquito control measures are becoming increasingly necessary to minimise the risk from diseases these insects carry.
The Asian tiger mosquito, which carries the Zika virus, has been found in small numbers in the UK. And the Culex modestus mosquito, which can transmit West Nile virus, has become established in parts of Kent and Essex.
What are vector-borne diseases?
Vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever can be transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks directly or indirectly between animals and humans.
The viruses and parasites that cause these diseases account for more than 17 per cent of infectious illnesses worldwide and cause more than 700,000 deaths a year.
Most cases of vector-borne disease occur in the tropics, but entomologists – who study insects and their relationship to humans – say the risk in the UK is rising because of climate change, global trade and travel, and changes in land use.
In recent years, there have been small outbreaks of tropical diseases like dengue fever as close as France. And cases of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever caused by ticks have been reported in Spain.
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) – a viral infectious disease transmitted by ticks – has been detected in a small number of ticks in Thetford Forest, which straddles the south of Norfolk and north of Suffolk, and in an area on the Hampshire-Dorset border. TBE causes flu-like symptoms and can sometimes progress to the central nervous system.
Pest control in Hampshire and Dorset
As local pest control specialists for Hampshire and Dorset, Ringwood-based Pests, Birds and Bugs will be keeping an eye on the TBE situation in these areas.
Meanwhile, we’ll continue to help safeguard these communities from the health hazards posed by pests such as rats, mice, flies, fleas, wasps and birds.
Call us on 07388 892414 if you need a fast and lasting solution to pest problems in your home or business premises.