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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Infectious disease hazards to pest control operators

  • Author(s): Arnstein, Paul
  • et al.

While no epidemiological data exist for disease risk particular to pest control operators, several potential diseases are discussed: rabies, leptospirosis, plague, murine typhus, and ornithosis. Contact with rabid animals most likely may occur from skunks, foxes, and bats. While leptospirosis is typically found in rats, it may also occur in opossums, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. While rat-borne plague caused outbreaks in the U.S. at the beginning of the 20th century, more recent incidents have resulted from human contact with wild rodent species and their ectoparasites; epizootics have been noted in squirrels, prairie dogs, rabbits, and pack rats and the disease is found in the 15 western states. Murine typhus, not to be confused with classical louse-borne typhus which is transmissible from person to person, is typically contracted by the bite of the rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis. Recent cases have been confined to 11 Southeastern states. Ornithosis (or psittacosis) is often mild or undetected and common reservoirs in the U.S. include parakeets, turkeys, and pigeons. Thus, pest control operators involved in pigeon control may be at risk by inhaling droplets or dry particles as aerosols of dried droppings and bird exudates. Precautions to avoid exposure to these diseases are discussed, and literature references are provided.

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