Gopher Diseases

Zoonotic Diseases are diseases that can pass from animals to people. There are several avenues through which this can happen. Some of the most common methods of transmission include: Fecal-oral, respiratory, direct contact, penetrating wound, and vector-borne diseases.

The following are diseases that can be transmitted from gophers to people. Understanding these diseases and how they are  transferred can help you avoid exposure.

Hantavirus

(Respiratory or Direct Contact Transmission)

Hantaviruses result in rare but extremely serious respitory illness. They normally cause infection in rodents, but do not cause disease in them. Humans may become infected with hantaviruses through contact with rodent urine, saliva, or feces.

Some strains cause potentially fatal diseases in humans, such as hantavirus hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS), or hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), also known as hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS). Other forms of this virus have not been associated with known human disease.

Hantavirus is most common in the Southwest, but can occur in other parts of the country. Deer mice are the main vectors of the disease, but white-footed mice, rice rats, and cotton rats are also known to carry the virus.

Anyone exposed to rodents or rodent-infected areas is at risk of contracting hantavirus. The virus is spread when mist or dust from rodent urine, saliva, or droppings gets in the air after being disturbed.

Humans contract the disease when they breath in the contaminated air. You can also contract it by touching your face after handling contaminated materials or infected rodents. In addition, a bite can spread the virus as well.

Symptoms include high fever, muscle aches, and other flu-like ailments. These usually take about 2 weeks to manifest. However, the incubation period can be as short as 3 days or as long as 6 weeks.

There us no specific treatment for hantavirus. Early medical care is key. If you suspect you have been exposed or are showing symptoms, seek medical care immediately. 

To prevent contracting hantavirus:

– Avoid rodents and rodent-infested areas whenever possible

– If you must clean or be in a space where rodents could be present, wear a tight-fitting mask and gloves

– Try not to stir up too much dust (don’t vacuum or use a fan)

Always wash your hands 

Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (LCM)

(Respiratory or Direct Contact)

LCMV infections can occur after exposure to fresh urine, droppings, saliva, or nesting materials from infected rodents. Transmission may also occur when these materials are directly introduced into broken skin, the nose, the eyes, or the mouth, or presumably, via the bite of an infected rodent.

Leptospirosis

(Respiratory or Direct Contact)

Leptospirosis is a blood infection caused by the bacteria Leptospira. More than ten genetic types of Leptospira cause disease in humans. Both wild and domestic animals can spread the disease, most commonly rodents. The bacteria are spread to humans through animal urine, or water and soil contaminated with animal urine, coming into contact with the eyes, mouth, nose or breaks in the skin.