After the nice cold winters we get in the Midwest, we took off the cover to our new grill we bought last year and the smell caused a flashback. Not quite to PTSD criteria, but bad nonetheless. Yes – as the title of the post gives away, there were rat droppings in the grill, or at least somewhere in the vicinity. I’m sure it was the nice warm, sheltered cover on the grill combined with the juicy, fatty grease in the catch-tray (or whatever that’s called) that attracted some wonderful guests. Perhaps it was mice droppings, but it definitely smelled like the labs I worked in during college and medical school. Thinking back, there were horrible things I had done to those rats. But it was all in the name of science, right? I’m thinking that the ancestors of those tortured rats got part of their revenge on me this Spring.
So, today was the day to clean out the grill. Using a bucket of water and bleach, along with numerous sponges and towels I did my best to decontaminate the grill. I did suffer a minor injury, cutting my pinky while trying to clean in the underside. Luckily (?) this was my second injury like this in the past year. Last year I cut my hand trying to clean a storm sewer in my backyard – so I got the tetanus shot in the fall. I would imagine getting rat dung in a cut isn’t the best, even if I’m safe from tetanus.
Between the grease and the rat droppings, I wasn’t too successful in making the grill look too clean. I think I did at least get rid of the memorable stench – although now I’m convinced my hands have somehow absorbed the odor and I’ll have that smell around me for a few more days.
And of course I have a headache – not sure if it’s from breathing in the bleach fumes, or being exposed to rat crap, or if it is just my somatizing nature. I didn’t do very well in infectious disease class (I think it was taught as part of immunology in my med school) and I was never good on the internal medicine rotations that dealt with infectious disease. I suppose that’s material for another post some day.
Doing a quick google search, it seems I may now be at risk for Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. Who knows how much rat dung I inspired or whether I got any rat crap in my fresh cut. It was cut in an area that wasn’t really dirty and I cleaned it out immediately and kept it bandaged the rest of the time I cleaned. Of course I started cleaning wearing gloves but after making a mess of the gloves and thinking the rest wasn’t so messy, I did take the gloves off. Within minutes I cut myself. Nice. And of course I figured wearing a mask was overkill. Guess I’ll just wait and see. I love being a somatizer (not really – I don’t really love it, but I am a somatizer). It looks like rats also carry leptospirosis, but if I’m reading the information correctly, that’s passed through rat urine that hasn’t dried yet. I shouldn’t be too much at risk there.
So, anyway, back to the original point – I did go ahead and get the grill somewhat cleaned. Not sure how much of the crud in there was grease and how much was rat poop. I’m thinking after we heat the grill up for a bit, we’ll be back in business. I am pretty sure that rat guests are not that unique, and I can’t think of the last time I heard someone I know suffering from either hantavirus or leptospirosis.