Pests vs Public Health

One of the main reasons we control pests is to protect our health. What are the risks to public health from pests and how can you minimise them?

Closer contact with pests

As our towns and cities have grown, this has brought us into closer contact with animals, some of which we consider pests. This has meant not only do we face the nuisance of dealing with pests, but the risks to our health that they bring too. Let’s look at some of the risks to public health from pests.


Birds like pigeons carry many disease-causing pathogens both on their bodies and in their droppings including:


A bacterial illness that’s transmitted to humans usually after contact with droppings. The bacteria are inhaled and can cause a chest infection or a more much serious systemic illness. If you work or live close to birds or their nesting sites, there’s an increased risk of infection.


This is a nasty food poisoning-like illness that is spread by contact with bird droppings. Symptoms range from diarrhoea, to abdominal cramps, and fever.


This is a fungal infection transmitted through inhalation of dried bird droppings. Infections like chest and skin infections can occur. More seriously, infection can result in meningitis.


Rats and mice are well-known carriers of disease. Like birds, they carry them in their bodies and transmit them in their urine and droppings. Risks to public health from pests like rodents are high, especially as they often find their way into food service and production businesses. Diseases they carry and transmit include:


If you’ve heard of this or you’ve had it, you’ll know that it’s not a pleasant bug to catch. Symptoms range from gastroenteritis in healthy people to sepsis and organ failure in people with weakened immune systems.


This bacterial infection can take hold after exposure to rodent urine or items it has contaminated. For otherwise healthy people, the infection can present as a mild flu-like illness however in severe cases, high fever and kidney failure can occur.


This viral infection is transmitted in rodent saliva, urine, and faeces. Symptoms are often mild, though in immunocompromised people, kidney failure can occur.


Thanks to our temperate climate, we don’t have that many insects in the UK that transmit diseases. However, as our climate gets warmer and wetter, more disease-causing pests like mosquitoes may head to our shores. Here’s a short summary of the risks to public health from pests like fleas and mosquitoes.

Fleas and bedbugs bite. Once the skin is pierced, it’s wide open to bacteria which can cause infection. If a bite is infected it will be red, hot, and painful. There may also be pus.

Mosquito bites can get infected. Although malaria is not currently an issue in the UK, as our climate heats up, it may become one.

Cockroaches can spread bacteria like E. coli. They love to feast on waste. You can only imagine what happens when they crawl from that waste and scurry over your kitchen worktops. In healthy people, E. coli causes gastroenteritis. For people with weak immune systems, the illness can be more severe and they may require antibiotics.

Protecting your health from pests

Whether it’s your business or home, preventing pests is the first thing you should focus on. Maintaining good housekeeping in your business premises and keeping your home clean and tidy is an important way to make a building less attractive to pests.

However, if pests have managed to get in, there is no substitute for professional treatment. You have to act fast. The longer you wait to get help, the more chance there is of pests being a serious risk to health.

Even after the initial infestation is gone, the clean up is important. As many of the diseases we’ve mentioned are transmitted in urine and droppings, Contego offers professional environmental cleaning to give you peace of mind.

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