For such tiny creatures, mice can be hugely controversial. Some, like the cartoon character Mr. Jinks, “hate those meeces to pieces.” Other people see their appeal, and think of them as cute pets. Mice that are not pets, however, are pests. Mice infestation damage can go beyond their nibbling at food or foundation. A mice infestation can endanger health as well as home.
The Biggest Danger of Mice Infestation: Potential for Disease
Even mice that are pets have a slight risk of carrying salmonella, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Small children, who have immature immune systems and might not wash their hands, and pregnant women are particularly at risk of food poisoning-like symptoms of salmonella, an intestinal-bacteria.
House mice, and various types of wild mice and their parasites, can cause other illnesses as well. These can include tapeworm and ringworm. The Centers for Disease Control says that worldwide, rats and mice can spread 35 diseases.
Some are rare but very dangerous, such as hantaviruses and the deadly Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, which is spread not by house mice but by several types of wild mice. Leptospirosis, the plague and typhus are other dangers, the CDC says.
More common problems from mice include asthma from breathing mice droppings, and flea infestations. Since disease can be spread not only by mice, but also by cleaning up the droppings, proper disposal is crucial.
Damage to Food, Grain and Structure
An infestation of mice can also be expensive. The rodents wreak havoc on food, housing and other structures. In the home, mice can live off snacks, stored grains, crumbs and even pet foods or grass seed.
They can jump more than a foot to get onto counters, and are good climbers. Store food securely in tight-fitting containers. Mice can defy even the most scrupulous housekeeping, so pest control measures may be necessary.
They can gnaw into insulation, chew wiring in appliances, and damage books, paintings and even family heirlooms. Their chewing could create a fire hazard if wiring is short-circuited.
How to Spot a Mice Infestation
In addition to obvious signs such as the sounds of tiny feet scurrying and noticeable teeth marks and other gnawing damage, the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management says to look for:
- Smudge marks caused by rodent fur
- A musky odor
Of course, you may see just the mice, particularly in daytime. With risks of disease and damage to house and home, the mice may be cute, but they certainly are unwelcome guests.
After proper sanitizing, the next step is controlling the rodent population with traps or toxins. A pest control expert can help.