Apart from being a nuisance and an unwelcome sight, the pests that you find in your home or office could actually pose a more serious threat to your health and wellbeing. While some pests transmit disease by biting or stinging, others pick up disease-causing bacteria and parasites as a result of their less than hygienic nesting and feeding habits – contaminating the surfaces and food that we then touch and consume.

With that in mind, a notable presence of rodents and even birds should be met with concern. To give you an idea, here are just some of the more common diseases that have been associated with household pests.

Lyme Disease

Pests: Ticks

This infectious disease is transmitted to humans through a bite from an infected black-legged or deer tick. These ticks are often brought into the home by pets and can also be picked up from walking in wooded or grassy areas. Early symptoms of Lyme disease are often accompanied by the appearance of a red, circular skin rash around the tick bite up to 30 days after being bitten.

Symptoms: Flu-like illness, joint pain, severe headaches with neck stiffness, heart palpitations, paralysis of the face

Salmonellosis

Pests: Flies, cockroaches, rodents

Salmonellosis, a symptomatic infection caused by the bacteria Salmonella which can also result in typhoid fever. Infection occurs by consumption of food or water that has been contaminated either by rodent faeces or flies and cockroaches that spread the disease by mechanical transmission after contact with infected matter.

Symptoms: Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting

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Dysentery

Pests: Cockroaches, flies

There are two types of dysentery caused by pests, namely dysentery caused by amoebiasis (amoebic dysentery) or dysentery caused by shigellosis (bacillary dysentery). Both forms infect the intestines after ingesting contaminated food or water or through oral contact with contaminated objects or hands. These become contaminated as a result of cockroaches or flies that carry pathogens in their gut or on their bodies.

Symptoms: Bloody diarrhoea, weight loss, fatigue and abdominal pain

Tapeworm

Pests: Rodents

Tapeworms (of the type Hymenolepis diminuta or rat tapeworm) are intestinal parasites that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract of rats. There are two types of rat tapeworm, Hymenolepis nana and H. diminuta. H. nana is the most common as it can have a complete lifecycle in human intestines and spread from person to person through eggs in faeces.

Symptoms: Enteritis, anorexia, headaches, anal pruritus, abdominal distress and small gut irritation

Tick Bite Fever

Pests: Tick

Similar to Lyme disease, tick bite fever is a bacterial infection transmitted by a tick bite. African tick bite fever is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia africae which is spread by ticks of the Amblyomma type. These ticks are generally found and picked up in tall grass or bush.

Symptoms: Fever, headache, malaise and a skin rash

Cholera

Pests: Flies

Flies spread cholera by carrying the bacteria Vibrio cholerae from infected faeces and contaminated products which is then transmitted to food and water. The disease is often associated with areas characterised by poor sanitation, unclean water, and poverty. Once ingested, Cholera infects the small intestine.

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Symptoms: Large amounts of watery diarrhea, vomiting, muscle cramps

Asthma

Pests: Cockroaches, rodents, dust mites, bed bugs

Insect and rodent saliva, droppings and shedding body parts can trigger asthma in humans. Most of these allergens are breathed in through the nose and into the respiratory system, causing irritation and allergic reaction.

Symptoms: Coughing, nasal congestion, skin rash, wheezing, ear infection, sinus infection

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