You’re more likely to get sick if you come in contact with fresh mouse droppings in a poorly ventilated space. The risk and type of infection may also depend on your location. Wherever you live, you can take steps to protect yourself.
Rodents such as rats, mice, prairie dogs, and chipmunks are shy animals who usually avoid direct contact with people. But even without frequent face-to-face contact, if you live near rodents, you’re at risk of developing the diseases that these animals are known to spread.
Mouse droppings can harbor bacteria and viruses that can cause various kinds of sicknesses in humans. Several of these illnesses may be serious or even deadly for some people. Mouse droppings are most likely to cause disease when found in high concentrations or areas without steady ventilation, such as attics or basements.
If you see small, dark droppings about the size and shape of rice grains in your yard, home, vehicle, school, or place of work, there may be a mouse — or many — nearby. It’s important to carefully clean up mouse droppings if you find them near you.
It’s also critical to ensure you remove the mice from your home to best lower your risk of contact with potentially infected mouse droppings.
Read on to learn more about your chances of getting a bacterial or viral disease from mouse droppings, and find out how you can take steps to avoid getting sick.
Some types of human infections from mouse droppings are more common than others. Infection rates vary around the world. Salmonellosis is an example of a very common human infection that affects more than 90 million people worldwide each year and can be acquired from mouse droppings.
Across West Africa, Lassa fever affects between
Other infections are rare but continue to affect people all over the world.
Rodents are found worldwide, and so are the diseases they carry. Infections often occur in rural areas where people have close contact with wildlife.
In the United States, rodent infections — especially hantaviruses — are most common in the Western states, where rodents tend to live in higher populations than in other areas. But these illnesses can occur across the country in any place rodents occupy.
With a single mouse producing 50 to 75 droppings per day, the presence of many mice can produce a large number of droppings. Mouse droppings often collect in areas near where people reside, as mice are attracted to the warmth of our vehicles and buildings and the food we cook, eat, and store.
Mouse and other rodent droppings can easily contaminate food, water, clothing, and bedding. Bacterial and viral diseases spread from mouse droppings when touched, inhaled, or accidentally ingested by a person.
How long can a virus survive in mouse droppings?
Viruses can remain infectious for varying amounts of time in different substances and on different surfaces. Many viruses can be infectious in mouse droppings for 2 to 3 days at room temperature. Time in the sun may shorten this period, but colder temperatures may lengthen it.
Bacteria such as Salmonella can remain alive for many more days or even weeks in mouse droppings.
Illnesses commonly shed from mice in their droppings include:
One prominent illness that arenaviruses from mouse droppings cause is
Lassa fever can cause severe damage to your body and has a high fatality rate. Symptoms occur over the course of days to weeks. Usually, it progresses from a fever with general weakness to including:
- sore throat
- muscle pain
- chest weakness
- abdominal pain
In more serious cases of Lassa fever — about 20% — people may experience bleeding gums, eyes, or nose.
Other arenaviruses from mouse droppings can cause other illnesses with similar symptoms, including:
- Chapare hemorrhagic fever
- Luju hemorrhagic fever
- Argentine hemorrhagic fever
Rodents in Europe, Asia, and the Americas spread hantaviruses. These viruses can cause severe illnesses.
In Europe and Asia, hantaviruses can cause
- intense headaches
- pain in the back and abdomen
- blurred vision
- flushed face
- redness in your eyes
In severe cases, it can lead to acute shock, low blood pressure, vascular leakage, and acute kidney failure.
In the Americas,
- muscle aches
- abdominal issues (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and pain)
Later, people with HPS experience coughing and shortness of breath. About
In the United States, the most dangerous type of HPS comes from deer mice that carry the Sin Nombre virus. Other sources in the United States include the cotton rat, rice rat, and white-footed mouse.
Salmonellosis is a type of bacterial infection caused by Salmonella bacteria. These bacteria can live in the intestines of many animals, including rodents. Most commonly, salmonellosis causes:
- stomach cramps
- abdominal pain
Symptoms last for 5 to 7 days.
Some people with Salmonella infection show no symptoms. Mild cases of salmonellosis tend to resolve on their own. But severe cases can be fatal if you don’t receive timely treatment.
Omsk hemorrhagic fever
People who live in Western Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Russia are at risk of contracting
- muscle pain
Bleeding, rash, skin sensitivity, and encephalitis may also develop in the later stages.
The fatality rate of Omsk hemorrhagic fever is low compared with some other similar rodent-borne diseases. Still, Omsk hemorrhagic fever can cause long-term body changes, including:
- hearing loss
- hair loss
- neurological problems
- mental health disorders
Rat-bite fever and Haverhill fever
Some rodents across North America and Asia may carry bacteria that cause rat-bite fever and Haverhill fever. You can also get rat-bite fever from the rodent’s urine or through bites or scratches.
Rat-bite fever can cause severe disease and organ system damage. Without timely treatment, it can be fatal in 10% of cases.
Symptoms usually appear within 3 to 10 days of contact with the bacteria. They include:
- swollen lymph nodes
- muscle pain
- joint pain
- rash (usually on your hands and feet)
If you feel off or show any signs of fever, unusual bleeding, or weakness, contact a doctor right away. It’s especially urgent to get medical help if you’ve had recent interactions with rodents and their droppings.
A doctor will perform a physical examination, take your medical history, and probably perform various tests. Blood, urine, and other tests can help them arrive at a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.
The best way to avoid becoming ill from mouse droppings is to prevent mice and other rodents from entering your home, vehicle, or other space. You can do this by making sure these spaces are well-sealed.
At home, keep your food and garbage contained. Make sure any potential rodent entryways are sealed. Regularly check under the hood of your vehicle for signs of rodent infestations, since that’s a common entry point.
If you notice rodent droppings in your home or vehicle, it’s important to clean them up right away. Start by opening doors and windows to ventilate the space.
Contaminated air is most likely to cause disease. Before you grab a broom and sweep up or vacuum the droppings, there are
Follow these steps to keep safe while cleaning up rodent urine and droppings:
- Put on a pair of rubber or plastic gloves and a face mask.
- Open windows and doors and let the air out for 30 minutes.
- Spray the droppings with a bleach solution or disinfectant until the droppings appear very wet. Allow to soak and sit for 5 minutes.
- Use paper towels to wipe up the droppings and cleaning product.
- Throw the paper towels away in a plastic bag within your trash can, and make sure the trash is disposed of quickly.
- Mop or sponge the area where you found the droppings with a disinfectant product. Clean all nearby hard surfaces, such as floors, countertops, drawers, and cabinets. For rugs and upholstery, use a commercial disinfectant, ideally with a commercial-grade steam cleaner or shampoo.
- Wash contaminated bedding, clothing, or stuffed animals with hot water and detergent. Dry them in the sun or on high in the dryer.
- For any contaminated items you can’t clean with a liquid disinfectant (such as books or papers), place them outdoors in sunlight for several hours. You may also place them in an indoor area free of rodents for at least 3 weeks.
- Set out traps to catch any rodents that may be living in your space. You can reuse snap traps but take similar caution when handling dead rodents. Spray dead mice, rats, nesting materials, the trap, and the surrounding area with disinfectant before handling them with gloves. Dispose of them in a separate plastic bag in your trash.
Removing rodent droppings from within air ducts, walls, or other structural areas of your home is more complex. It’s also very challenging (and can be dangerous) to tackle a severe rodent infestation. For these jobs, it’s best to hire a professional who has the proper protective equipment.
Rodents such as mice often seek out our vehicles, buildings, yards, and other human spaces to stay warm, sheltered, and fed. Their proximity to humans puts us at risk of developing serious and potentially fatal illnesses.
If you find mouse droppings, it’s important to properly and carefully clean up. You can also prepare by guarding against future mouse visits or infestations.
If you suspect you’ve contracted a rodent-borne disease, call a doctor and schedule an appointment right away.