Regional Rodent-Borne Infectious Diseases in North America: What Wilderness Medicine Providers Need to Know

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Wilderness and Environmental Medicine


Rodents can transmit infectious diseases directly to humans and other animals via bites and exposure to infectious salivary aerosols and excreta. Arthropods infected while blood-feeding on rodents can also transmit rodent-borne pathogens indirectly to humans and animals. Environmental events, such as wet winters, cooler summers, heavy rains, and flooding, have precipitated regional rodent-borne infectious disease outbreaks; these outbreaks are now increasing with climate change. The objectives of this review are to inform wilderness medicine providers about the environmental conditions that can precipitate rodent-borne infectious disease outbreaks; to describe the regional geographic distributions of rodent-borne infectious diseases in North America; and to recommend prophylactic treatments and effective prevention and control strategies for rodent-borne infectious diseases. To meet these objectives, Internet search engines were queried with keywords to identify scientific articles on outbreaks of the most common regional rodent-borne infectious diseases in North America. Wilderness medicine providers should maintain high levels of suspicion for regional rodent-borne diseases in patients who develop febrile illnesses after exposure to contaminated freshwater after heavy rains or floods and after swimming, rafting, or paddling in endemic areas. Public health education strategies should encourage limiting human contact with rodents; avoiding contact with or safely disposing of rodent excreta; avoiding contact with contaminated floodwaters, especially contact with open wounds; securely containing outdoor food stores; and modifying wilderness cabins and campsites to deter rodent colonization.

First Page


Last Page