Is It Bad to Breath Rodent Droppings?

The mere thought of breathing in mouse poop – actually, dust from dry, crumbled mouse poop – is undoubtedly repugnant to contemplate. The reality is that you can end up breathing in mouse poop when you go about sweeping up feces. (You actually may also end up breathing in dried mouse urine as well.)

In addition to being repulsive to contemplate, you also need to understand that breathing in, or otherwise exposing yourself to, mouse poop can also be hazardous to your health. There are a number of important and potentially life saving facts that you need to bear in mind when it comes to inhaling mouse poop, even in small amounts.

Disease and Mouse Poop

The most significant fact that you need to bear in mind when it comes to mouse poop is that this type of feces can be contaminated with hazardous viruses or bacteria. The more common types of pathogens that can be contained in mouse poop include:

  • Hantavirus
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus
  • Salmonella

You need to familiarize yourself with how these different pathogens potentially can adversely impact your health.

Hantavirus

Mice can carry the hantavirus, although they do not become ill from it. The hantavirus can pass from mice to humans through mouse droppings.

Mouse droppings become particularly dangerous when they dry out. When dry, mouse droppings are susceptible to crumbling. When they crumble, dust is created. The dust can contain dangerous pathogens, including hantavirus. That dust can become airborne. When airborne, the dust containing hantavirus can be inhaled. If inhaled in this manner, a person can be infected by hantavirus.

The infection can cause severe damage to the capillaries in the lungs. The capillaries can end up hemorrhaging. When this occurs, the lung fill with blood. This condition is called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. About 30 percent of people diagnosed with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome will die.

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis bacteria can be spread via mouse droppings and urine. The disease is classified in two stages. The symptoms of the early stage oftentimes are mistaken for the flu. symptoms of the first stage are:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
  • Red eyes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash

In some cases, leptospirosis resolves on its own. If it does not, and if it is not treated, it can progress to a second phase. In the second phase, more life-threatening consequences can occur. These include:

  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Meningitis

Not only humans, but pets can also be infected with this bacterium.

Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus

The lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus can be transmitted from mice to humans via mouse feces and urine. As is the case with hantavirus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus can be inhaled, causing an infection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus appears quite resistant to drying. As a consequence, humans can become infected by inhaling infectious airborne particles of mouse urine and feces. Exposure and infection can also occur through or saliva, by ingesting food contaminated with virus, by contamination of mucous membranes with infected body fluids, or by directly exposing cuts or other open wounds to virus-infected blood.

This virus is spread through common field mice. It is not a common infection in the United States. In many cases, the symptoms of the virus are so mild, people never realize they are infected. The fatality rate is low for this virus.

Salmonella

Salmonella bacteria can be shed via mouse droppings. Rather than becoming inhaled, contaminated droppings somehow end up in food items and are consumed.

In most cases, salmonella – more commonly referred to as “food poisoning” – can cause:

Stomach cramps
Nausea
Vomiting
Diarrhea

It is possible, although not likely, to die from salmonella. In most cases in which dead occurred, the infected person was very young, significantly older, or has a weakened immune system. Salmonella has been identified in many types of mice.