Rodents are well-known disease reservoirs. Our lives will become increasingly intertwined as our shared environment warms.
American historian Henry Adams once said, “Chaos often breeds death, but order breeds habits.” It is actually our bad habits that have led us to ruin.
Zoonoses (infectious diseases that spread from animals and humans to humans) are one potential source of our problems. These diseases are becoming more common as we continue to encroach on their natural ecosystems and have a negative impact on entire ecosystems via climate changes.
The COVID-19 epidemic is a good example of how serious these pathogens are. Rodents are well-known as dangerous reservoirs for zoonotic pathogens among wildlife. Black Plague killed approximately 60 percent of Europeans in its seven-year duration according to historical accounts. More recent deadly outbreaks such as hantavirus or arenavirus (Lassa Fever), have cemented rodents’ reputation as one of most filthy animals.
Infection can occur in many ways. These include rodent bites and rodent flea bites. You may also be infected by touching rodent excrements, or simply by inhaling contaminated atmosphere.
Recent rat-fueled zoonotic epidemics include haemorrhagic and renal syndromes, pulmonary syndrome, and haemorrhagic choriomeningitis. Climate change has had an effect on the size and distributions of rodent populations.
Zoonotic diseases are still being fuelled by the displacement of wildlife due to human activities, such as deforestation and expansion of urban sprawl.
Based on peer-reviewed research, three climate factors are responsible for the occurrence of hantavirus infections in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Although there is strong evidence that hantavirus disease is linked to high levels in rain and habitat factors, the relationship with temperature and humidity is still not clear. These areas are complex because of missing data, unknown names of all the virus hosts, the circulation of multiple strains of hantavirus, land-use and agricultural variations, and challenging public health systems.
We know that rodents seek shelter from the heat and food as the temperatures rise. Low temperatures may reduce daytime activities but rodents still seek shelter and warmth in buildings, homes, and vehicles. This increases human-rodent contact as well as the risk of zoonotic transmission.
High rainfall encourages vegetative growth, increased food availability for rodents and softer soil for digging. Heavy rains in Belgium led to mast events, which resulted in the production of seeds primarily from oak and beech trees. This increased bank vole rodent population. These populations seek shelter in human homes to survive winter months and increase hantavirus epidemics.
Leptospirosis is a rare disease that is caused by Leptospira bacteria found in the urine of infected rats and mice. It can also be influenced by climate change and infects humans and animals’ kidneys.
The bacteria thrives in moist, wet soil environments. In the Caribbean region of Guadeloupe, record leptospirosis cases were reported between 2003-and 2005 following very hot and wet seasons linked with two El Niño events.
People who swim in water that is exposed to leptospiral are more likely to be exposed to higher temperatures. Floods that create unsanitary conditions or disrupt waste management can also expose people.
Climate predictions estimate higher temperatures of 1.4 – 5.8°C by 2100, and an increase in rainfall, cyclone, and hurricane intensities with higher flooding risks particularly for tropical countries where leptospirosis is endemic.
Approximately two out of every three new infectious diseases are caused by a zoonotic pathogen — highlighting the importance of understanding the true risks behind human-animal connections.
For solutions to be effective, they must be holistic. They should simultaneously target humans, the environment, as well as our infrastructures. Public health officials can use predictive infectious disease risk modeling to help them anticipate and prepare for any potential problems ahead of time.
Climate change is the constant threat to every corner of the globe. Rising temperatures, melting of polar ice cap, sea level rise and weather extremes all lead to the constant disruption of ecosystems that were once in balance.
Climate change impacts are more severe in countries and regions that have pre-existing economic, social, and health vulnerabilities. It is crucial to focus on rodent-based, rodent-based zoonoses in order to protect lives and livelihoods, especially in small island developing economies that are greatly affected by the changing climate.
(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff. It is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.