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Both black and brown rats are known carriers of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that can cause health issues for people. It is generally through their urine and droppings that pathogens are transmitted. Surface contact with skin, particularly through grazes or open cuts can lead to contamination, as can consuming contaminated food or water.
Spirillary fever (or Rat-bite fever) and Hantavirus are two pathogens that can be transmitted from rodents to people via food and water contaminated by rodent urine and excrement. Rats are also know as carriers of leptospires in their urine, which can cause Leptospirosis (commonly known as Weil's disease) in people.
In extreme wet conditions (such as flooding) the leptospires within the rats urine can survive outside of the rodents body for much longer periods of time. It is therefore advisable for anyone in contact with flood water, clearing up after flooding or even just in contact waterlogged ground where rats may have been active, take a few precautionary steps:
Be aware that in flooded areas rats will have been forced out of burrows and sewers. They will be looking for new, dry harbourages, with access to food sources.
When repairing property from flood damage try to rodent proof it at the same time. Seal holes and gaps with wire wool or caulk, add bristle strips to doors and fix any broken pipe-work that could offer rats easy access to your property.