Did you know that cockroaches can make you sick? Besides the fact that their unseemly sight could make your stomach turn, a roach infestation in your home could be a potential hotbed for diseases. These range from allergies, asthma, even the plague, and many others.
The good news is that you can do something about it. Keeping your home clinically clean is a good place to start. Of course, the best approach is to exterminate the pesky critters with pest control services.
If you need more convincing, below are some of the known cockroach diseases and how they can make one sick.
1. Salmonella Diseases
Cockroach waste and saliva can contaminate your food and that’s how they spread cockroach diseases. Their saliva and waste contain bacteria that could compromise your food and lead to a disease called Salmonella, which causes food poisoning.
A common bacterial infection, salmonella, scientifically known as salmonellosis, infects the intestinal tract in humans. This bacteria is ejected via human feces. Water and food contamination are the primary avenues of infection among humans.
While it’s true that they thrive in poor sanitation areas, just making sure your home is clinically clean doesn’t guarantee cockroaches won’t visit you. As long as there’s uncovered food lying around, there’s a high likelihood they will come calling.
Roaches can access your home via boxes, food packages, appliances, or used furniture. They can also enter your home from adjoining buildings and apartments.
Once they are in, they are ferocious eaters, and that’s when you should be worried about food poisoning since they pick up bacteria along the way and deposit it on your food. Always make sure all your food is covered.
2. Asthma Diseases
As cockroaches scurry around, eating whatever they can find, their legs pick up bacteria. Inevitably, this bacteria is assimilated into dust.
Upon breathing bacteria-infested dust, children are likely to contract asthma, a condition that causes the airways to swell and narrow, producing excess mucus. The result is that asthma makes breathing difficult and usually triggers shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing.
3. Typhoid Fever Diseases
A highly infectious disease, typhoid fever is caused by the salmonella typhi bacterium. Roaches contract this disease upon consumption of bacterium-infested feces.
According to the CDC, this disease is prevalent in several developing nations that have limited clean water access and poor sanitation. However, it also affects parts of the developed nations, such as in the USA where at least 5,700 cases are recorded each year.
At the highest risk of infection are the elderly and children with low immunity. Among symptoms of typhoid fever are muscle and head aches, stomach pain, exhaustion, high temperature, diarrhea and constipation.
4. Cholera Diseases
An acute diarrheal infection, cholera is caused by a bacterium known as Vibrio cholerae. Mostly found in countries with poor sanitation, infection is mainly via the ingestion of contaminated food and drinks.
Cockroaches that have been exposed to this bacterium are likely to spread it in their vomit and feces (yuck!), contaminating food and surfaces. According to the WHO, there are between 1.4 to 4.3 million incidences of cholera, and 28,000 to 142,000 deaths, every year.
5. Leprosy Diseases
There’s this leprosy-causing bacterium called bacillus mycobacterium leprae, and cockroaches are suspected to be among its carriers. It’s believed that roaches spread this disease via their feces!
Although this bacteria is not highly infectious, if not treated, it can result in damage to the nerves, eyes, and skin, which sometimes lead to deformities and disfigurement. While symptoms of leprosy could take as much as twenty years to show, it has an incubation period of about five years.
6. Dysentery Diseases
This disease is not too serious as most people with mild symptoms are good to go without medical treatment a week after infection. It’s a type of gastroenteritis that manifests in bloody diarrhea.
The two types of this disease are bacillary dysentery, which is sometimes known as shigellosis and is caused by shigella bacteria.
The other type, amoebic dysentery, is caused by entamoeba, a single-celled parasite that’s commonly found in the tropics.
To avoid dysentery, observe good hand hygiene and only ingest hygienically prepared foods and drinks. You might have dysentery if you experience nausea, are vomiting, have a high temperature or stomach cramps. Other symptoms include bloody and mucous diarrhea.
7. Plague Diseases
In the 14th century, a disease known as the bubonic plague killed 50 million people. While largely rodent-borne, cockroaches are also suspected carriers of yersinia pestis, a bacterium believed to cause the bubonic plague.
Symptoms of this plague include chills, high fever, muscle cramps, and painful and swollen lymph nodes. Swift treatment (ideally within 24 hours) is needed upon infection as this disease degenerates extremely fast.
These are not the only diseases carried by cockroaches. There are many more. The key to remember is that roaches thrive in areas with poor sanitation, which puts developing countries at the highest risk of experiencing cockroach-borne diseases. However, a clean house can also attract cockroaches if food is left uncovered.
A word of caution: if you suspect you have any of the above conditions, seek medical attention.