Health Risks From Common Pests

Girl holding cat

What are the health risks associated with common pests?

The creatures that share our homes or invade our homes come for shelter or because we and our pets provide food for them. Many common pests represent significant health risks.


The National Institute of the Environment Health Services reports that twenty percent of children in the United States have severe allergic sensitivities to cockroach allergens which increase the severity of asthma symptoms. These allergens come from the saliva, droppings and decomposing bodies of the cockroaches in homes. Because of the environments cockroaches move through, they carry bacteria on their e-coli and salmonella causing bacteria on their bodies. They contaminate cooking utensils, kitchen surfaces and food with these.


Rodents like mice or rats enter buildings through the smallest gaps and openings, especially when it starts to get cold. If you inspect carefully, you may see their droppings in hidden areas like rarely used pantries, under baseboards and along walls. Many people have strong allergic reactions to rodent droppings. They can also cause parasitic diseases, including hantavirus, which could be deadly. In recent months, the world has seen outbreaks of The Plague, which is a historically devastating epidemic disease.


One of the most important dangers of rodents, or other furry outsiders, is that they frequently carry fleas and ticks which can be a serious hazard, not only to pests but to people. Fleas resemble tiny grasshoppers that feed on the blood of their hosts, most often mice, rats, or squirrels. Human beings are not their favorite food, but they will bite in the absence of other hosts.

Fleas often enter the digestive systems of pets when they groom themselves and inadvertently swallow one or more. The bodies of the fleas is frequently infested with tapeworms, the eggs of which enter the life-cycle of the flea when they are ingested by the flea larvae. The tapeworms live and grow in the intestines of pets and can cause severe illness and death.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that occasionally babies or children ingest fleas when they play in carpets inhabited by the pests. If these ingested fleas are infected with tapeworm eggs, the child can receive the tapeworm parasite. Most of the time, when children ingest the tapeworm eggs they are passed out of the body in feces. However, tapeworm infestations in children are not unknown, and require medical treatment.


Ants are a favorite human insect because of their profoundly social lifestyle. They are usually very small and easy to ignore. However, they can dangerously contaminate foods. Some ants have powerful venom. In warmer climates fire ants can penetrate skin and cause stinging. Some people are allergic to ant stings and can suffer major allergic reactions. Ants also carry harmful bacteria that can cause serious infectious diseases like salmonella.


Houseflies were once the most common household pests. While they are still a pest, it is now considered more of a public health nuisance because it carries so many parasites that it picks up from fecal matter and other human and animal wastes among which it feeds. These microbes get lodged in the foot pads and mouthparts of the fly and get deposited on food or surfaces as it walks about.


Bedbugs are infesting an increasing number of houses nationwide. They are a special problem in group living facilities like hospitals, nursing homes, universities, military barracks, as well as hotels and cruise ships. They are active migrants walking on their own six legs or carried as hitchhikers in luggage and packages. They can live for months without feeding. They live during the day close to bedding, under mattresses, in bed frames, drapes, under rugs, or door frames and come out when human beings are asleep to engorge blood. They can travel distances up to many feet to feed. The bite is initially painless but can cause swelling and itchiness later. The bite of a bedbug is eventually very uncomfortable and can become infected. However, they are not especially known for spreading disease.

Since 2001, Miller the Killer, has been giving clients in Des Moines peace of mind when it comes to their pest management problems. Please contact us to learn more.