Cockroaches are synonymous with dirt, filth and poor hygiene. Their feeding and nesting habits mean they can easily accumulate a range of different organisms, which, when transmitted, can result in complications to your health.
For businesses, this can have a negative impact on both staff health and retention. In addition, those operating within the food industry could experience a breach in food safety laws, as cockroaches have been linked to the spread of foodborne diseases.
Diseases from cockroaches
Cockroaches can spread a range of diseases. However, unlike mosquitoes, they are not direct vectors of diseases through mechanical transfer and acting as a reservoir. Transmission occurs indirectly, from consumption or contact with items which have been contaminated by cockroaches, rather than through bites.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO): “Cockroaches are not usually the most important cause of a disease, but like houseflies, they play a supplementary role in the spread of some diseases”.
Cockroaches are proven or suspected carriers of the organisms that cause the following infections:
Cockroaches and asthma
To add to the other bacterial diseases transmitted by cockroaches, there is also a link between these crawling insects and asthma.
Cockroach allergy was first reported in 1943. It was discovered when patients developed a rash after cockroaches crawled on their skin.
Cockroaches can trigger asthma because they certain proteins in their bodies which can be an allergen for certain people. When tiny particles from cockroach bodies are spread through the air in buildings, these proteins are inhaled and an asthma attack can be triggered in sensitive people.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that the saliva, faeces and shed skin of cockroaches can trigger both asthma and other allergic responses.
The National Pest Management Association has carried out studies around cockroach allergens and residential homes. Its studies show that around 63% of homes in the US contain allergens. This statistic rises for homes in urban areas (between 78% and 98%).
It is estimated by the WHO that 300 million 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.
How do cockroaches spread diseases?
As they are reservoirs of organisms which cause disease and not vectors, cockroaches use other means to spread diseases.
Cockroaches can spread diseases through:
- Direct contact
Due to their unsanitary eating habits, cockroaches can pass harmful pathogens through their droppings. When a cockroach feasts on something contaminated, such as a raw piece of chicken or animal faeces, the organism will enter, and may lay dormant in their digestive system. The pathogen will then be excreted in cockroach droppings and will contaminate surfaces and food.
Cockroach saliva is also responsible for spreading a range of diseases. Similar to droppings, saliva can harbour pathogens accumulated from eating contaminated items.
Cockroaches can be found living in sewers, cesspits, drains and rubbish bins where they come into contact with a range of organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, which can become attached to cockroaches’ bodies. The legs of a cockroach, for example, have spines that are sensitive to touch and provide a very large surface area to pick up pathogens. Anything a cockroach touches or rubs past may then become contaminated.
How can you catch a disease from a cockroach?
You can catch a disease from a cockroach in a range of different ways. However, for the most part, cockroach diseases are caught by coming into contact with items that a cockroach has contaminated.
Eating and drinking contaminated food
The most common form of transmission of a disease from a cockroach is from eating or drinking anything it has contaminated. This can either be through consuming food or drink contaminated by cockroaches, or by eating or drinking something that has been made using contaminated cooking utensils, cutlery or crockery, or touched contaminated surfaces.
Inhaling contaminated air
If the air supply is contaminated with proteins from cockroach faeces, vomit or shed skin and this is inhaled by people suffering from asthma, an attack can be triggered.
Touching contaminated items
Touching items contaminated with a organism deposited by cockroaches is also a route through which transmission can occur. Touching an item which has been contaminated then touching your eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound can result in the pathogen entering the body and infection setting in.
How to prevent cockroaches spreading diseases
The most effective way to prevent to cockroaches spreading diseases in your home or business is to reduce to possibility of these crawling insects entering your property. This best way to do this is to enlist the necessary cockroach prevention methods.
Following the correct prevention techniques will reduce the risk of an infection from a disease spread by cockroaches, and drastically reduce the potential for cockroaches to spread diseases through your property.
You can prevent diseases spread by cockroaches by:
- Thorough cleaning practices
- Following proper hand hygiene
- Sealing cracks and gaps
Cleaning is one of the most effective methods for preventing cockroaches. Not only will it make your property less appealing to them in the first place, it will also get rid of any bacteria or virus they’ve spread.
It’s advised that you clean floors, worksurfaces, sinks and drains on a regularly basis and cooking utensils, cutlery and crockery before and after use. Removing any possible food sources, such as dropped food, grease behind ovens and pet faeces, is also a good idea.
For businesses operating within the food industry, complying with the proper food safety regulations in regards to cleaning can help reduce the risk of diseases carried by cockroaches being spread.
Washing your hands on a regular basis can assist in reducing the risk of cockroach-borne diseases. Wash your hands with soap and warm water on a regular basis to help eliminate any bacteria, germs or viruses which can cause the diseases spread by cockroaches.
It is important that you wash your hands:
- Before, during and after preparing food
- After using the washroom
- Before and after eating
- After handling any material which could transfer germs
Seal cracks and gaps
Sealing cracks or gaps in and around your property helps to reduce the number of entry points for cockroaches. This in turn reduces their potential to transmit organisms which cause diseases through your home or businesses.
It’s a good idea to regularly inspect your property to make sure there are no entry points, and seal them with expanding foam and other materials if necessary. It is also advised that you regularly inspect and repair damaged drains and pipes.
Professional cockroach control
The best way to reduce the risk of cockroach diseases is to enlist the help of a professional pest control professional (exterminator).
With over 90 years of experience, Rentokil provides a range of services and solutions to both prevent and exterminate cockroaches, which will reduce the potential for these crawling insects to spread diseases in your property.