Endless mouse plague poses new threats

28 APRIL 2021

Endless mouse plague poses new threats

As people rid their homes and properties of hundreds of mice during this plague, a Charles Sturt expert warns of the dangers associated with these little critters through food contamination and disposal.

  • Charles Sturt expert warns of dangers of food or water contaminated by mice
  • Dr Andrew Peters said disease from mice can spread to humans and domestic animals via ingestion and contact with contaminated water
  • He suggests a number of precautions to take to ensure safety when disposing of hundreds of mice a day

While people across multiple states are worrying about how to trap mice during the current plague, a Charles Sturt University expert has said we should be equally concerned about how we handle and dispose of them.

Charles Sturt Associate Professor in Wildlife Health and Pathology with the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences Dr Andrew Peters said contact with wild mice could be harmful to the health of humans and domestic animals.

Dr Peters is warning about the dangers of mouse urine and faeces in food, or dead mice contaminating water tanks, potentially proving harmful to the health of people and their pets.

Contact with wild mice can lead to symptoms ranging from nothing to very serious illness, including leptospirosis and salmonella, and hospitalisation.

“There are a number of infectious diseases in mice that can cause illness in people, especially through contamination of food or water,” he said.

“These can be a significant risk to human health.”

After months of baiting and trapping mice, residents are still in the process of ridding their properties of the animals.

But Dr Peters said there are risks of handling mice and disposing of their carcasses.

“It’s important to make sure that, when handling mouse carcasses especially, adequate care is taken to protect yourself and others,” he said.

When faced with having to dispose of hundreds of mouse carcasses a day, Dr Peters advising contacting the local council, as this can pose a risk to workers involved in waste disposal.

There is little evidence on the risk of infection associated with contact with wild mice because many cases of zoonotic diseases (where an animal infects a person) are underreported or undiagnosed.

“While we don’t know exactly how serious the health risk is to people during mouse plagues, the extra level of contact with wild mice during these events probably causes additional risk, and that is worth trying to prevent,” Dr Peters said.

Dr Peters said there are precautions people can take if they have contact with wild mice to limit the chance of infection or disease.

These include regular washing of hands, wearing gloves when handling live or dead mice, keeping mice away from food and seeking expert advice on water treatment.

Disposal of dead mice should follow local Council advice but can include commercial bio-waste composting (e.g. ‘green bin’ disposal in some areas) or double-bagging for removal with standard waste.

Dr Peters recommends that experts in water quality management or the local council should be contacted if it is suspected that water tanks or supplies might be contaminated.

Media Note:

For more information or to arrange interviews with Dr Andrew Peters, contact Nicole Barlow at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0429 217 026 or news@csu.edu.au.

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