To put it quite simply, yes they can!
When you think of cockroaches, images and connotations of dirtiness and poor hygiene come crawling into your mind. But did you also know that cockroaches can make you quite ill?
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Diseases you can catch from cockroaches
There are quite a few diseases caused by cockroaches. What’s important to note is that cockroaches aren’t vectors for diseases but mainly reservoirs. What this means is that unlike mosquitoes who transfer diseases through biting (vectors), cockroaches transmit diseases through contamination, and they pretty much contaminate everything they touch!
Health risk of cockroaches
Cockroaches serve as a vital source for infectious pathogens, playing hosts to a range of different bacteria. Around 32 different species of bacteria can be found on cockroaches infesting domestic areas. Cockroaches are also responsible for spreading six different parasitic worms and more than 7 other pathogens.
Here are the main diseases and bacteria spread by cockroaches:
- E. Coli
Compared to the other cockroach diseases on this list, asthma is a lot different. As opposed to transmitting asthma to people, cockroaches trigger asthma.
Cockroaches trigger asthma through an allergic reaction. Cockroach allergy was first reported in 1943. This was discovered when patients developed skin rashes after cockroaches crawled on their skin. It was fully confirmed in 1959 that cockroaches trigger allergic reactions.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s where these allergies to cockroaches also trigger asthma was discovered. Doctors noticed that patients with cockroach allergies showed signs of asthma attacks. Asthma attacks occur after inhaling allergens release by cockroaches.
It is estimated by the WHO that 300m people worldwide suffer from asthma. It has been discovered that frequent hospital visits of children living in cities suffering from asthma can often be as a result to contact with cockroaches. Around 23-60% of people with Asthma are sensitive to cockroach allergens.
Like rodents, cockroaches are also known to spread salmonella. The Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) estimates that salmonella causes more than 1.2 million illnesses each year in the US, with 2,3000 of those resulting in hospitalisations. Contraction of salmonella can develop into other serious illnesses such as gastroenteritis and typhoid fever.
However, usually, salmonella requires little to no treatment and disappears at around 4 to 7 days. It is only the severe cases where dehydration comes into play, where hospitalisation is needed.
E.Coli (Escherichia Coli) is a bacteria commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms. E.Coli is responsible for cause serious food poisoning in their hosts.
Depending on the severity of the virus, food poisoning caused by E.Coli can be treated simply by replenishing fluids and taking antibiotics. The illness usually last between 5-10 days, with most people will be better in 6-8 days.
Signs of infection
You might be wondering “how can I tell if I have caught a cockroach disease?”. There are a few signs which can identify as a cockroach disease.
Signs of cockroach diseases
- Chesty cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest tightness
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Muscle and joint pain
However, it’s worth noting that these diseases aren’t specific to cockroaches, and you can catch them from other sources. Identifying if cockroaches are the route of these illnesses is matching the symptoms with signs of cockroaches.
How can you catch a disease from a cockroach?
As previously stated, unlike mosquitoes, cockroaches are reservoirs for diseases. Cockroaches transmit diseases mechanically.
You can catch a disease from a cockroach by:
- Inhaling – As you already know, asthma can be triggered by cockroaches by inhaling allergens their presence releases into the air.
- Touching – You can catch a disease from a cockroach by touching anything contaminated by cockroaches and then proceeding to touch your eyes, nose and/or mouth. This allows for the bacteria to transfer itself from your hands into your immune system.
- Digesting – Just like with touching, you can transmit a cockroach disease by eating or drinking anything that has been contaminated by a cockroach.
How can cockroaches contaminate things?
You’ve probably already noticed that cockroach diseases are transmitted through these insects contaminating items which we regularly come in contact with. Cockroaches are pretty much buses for bacteria.
Their search for food brings them into areas such as sewers. Sewer roaches pick up a range of bacteria on their feet and skin whilst exploring these dirty underground passages. When a cockroach explores a property after previously dwelling in a sewer, the bacteria they have accumulated and quickly be passed onto anything they come in contact with.
Cockroaches have a pretty wide dietary range. They will eat anything from the ham sandwich in your desk drawer to the feces in your cat’s litter tray. Cockroaches will eat anything! It is because of this that a whole range of different bacteria and diseases can be found in their stomachs and bladders.
Due to a cockroach harbouring many diseases such as salmonella in their stomachs, cockroach feces can harbour a large sum of harmful bacteria. Unlike us cockroaches don’t have a specific area which they use for their toiletry requirements and will defecate on anything. If you come into contact with anything a contaminate with cockroach excrement there is a strong possibility you could contract whatever disease it is infected with.
Just like cockroach droppings, their vomit also plays host to a range of different diseases. You know by now that cockroaches will eat anything, and will rely heavily on our food supplies in an urban environment. But did you know cockroaches regurgitate digestive fluids as part of their eating process? That means that the tasty ham sandwich in your desk drawer I mentioned earlier could come with a side of cockroach diseases.
Cockroach urine is also responsible for transmitting cockroach diseases. Just like with their droppings, cockroaches will urinate anywhere, and their urine also contains harmful diseases. If you have a large infestation on your hands then there might be a chance that a lot of items might be contaminated with cockroach urine in your property.
How to prevent cockroach diseases
The best way to prevent catching a cockroach disease is to reduce the possibility of coming into contact with these pests. The best way to do this is to take the necessary cockroach prevention procedures. This will reduce the risk of acquiring a cockroach infestation, and eliminate the possibility of cockroaches contaminating your property with diseases.
There are a few prevention techniques you can do yourself to help reduce the risk of cockroaches entering your property.
Ensure that all work surfaces, kitchen counters, desks, and floors are clean and free from food debris and liquid spills as well as emptying out bins daily. This limits the food source available for cockroaches, making your property less appealing to them.
Follow proper hand hygiene
Washing your hands regularly, specifically before eating can help eliminate the germs and bacteria spread by cockroaches.
Seal cracks and gaps
Sealing any cracks and gaps in your property will eliminate the entry points cockroaches can use to get into your home.
Contact a professional
Enlisting the help of a professional pest control company can help ensure your property is safe from cockroaches. At Rentokil, we offer a wide range of cockroach services and solutions both in prevention and managing a cockroach problem.
Worried about cockroaches? Get in contact with Rentokil today.
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