Rat Droppings, GI Symptoms, and Hypochondriasis
I discovered a tag line for my blog: “Learning Medicine Through Hypochondriasis”. It came to me yesterday at our Seder when everyone was sharing their illness concerns and it became clear that we are a genetically hypochondriacal family. Nonetheless, I realized that I was most motivated to learn issues in medicine when I was worried that I was dying from the particular illness.
As I mentioned in my earlier post about rat droppings by the grill, there are several diseases that can be contracted from rats. Yesterday I had some lower GI problems (no need for details – at least not today) and of course perseverated on whether it was due to rat poop exposure. I did a bit more searching online and was disappointed to find that almost all of the articles I found online were written by rat control companies with just a bit of frightening information about rat diseases.
The only source I really trust is the information I found on the CDC website. There is a wonderful list of all of the diseases I may have contracted either through breathing in rat dung or by direct exposure (since I did cut my hand during the cleaning process, I allowed these deadly diseases direct access to my blood stream).
As mentioned earlier, I could get hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. So far, my breathing seems okay. It isn’t clear how much exposure you need to contract the illness, and I’m not motivated enough to read up on the time course and symptoms of illness.
A much more exciting sounding disease is Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome. This is a beautiful sounding disease that is contracted from either breathing in infected poop or direct contact with an open sore. Wonderful. The symptoms don’t typically occur for 1-2 weeks and can sometimes take up to 8 weeks. The good news is that the most severe form only has a 15% fatality rate, so odds are good that I’ll still survive.
Lassa Fever is the next one listed. This brings back some memories of that Brittish sounding professor in medical school with the disgusting photographs he took when he traveled through Africa. While this disease can be kinda nasty, it does sound like it’s really limited to West Africa. I’m feeling good about my chances against Lassa Fever at this point.
I mentioned Leptospirosis the other day, but this seems mainly limited to exposure to contaminated water. My symptoms could be related (GI symptoms and headaches), but people usually don’t show symptoms for at least 2 days (Hmm – so today might be my lucky day) or it can take up to 4 weeks after exposure to develop symptoms. That kinda stinks. I hate having to wait to see if I’m infected. As the risk is mainly from contaminated water, I’m probably safe on this one too.
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis is next on the list, but the link on the CDC page was broken. Luckily the correct page (to which I linked) is active on Google and I was able to find it. Symptoms will show up 8-13 days after exposure. Rats. Gonna have to wait on this one too. Luckily the fatality is less than 1%. Aside from some pain and suffering, it sounds like at least I’d live.
Omsk Hemorrhagic fever – love the name, but seems to be limited to Siberia. Whew.
Plague. It is passover. Luckily this is mainly in Western US.
Rat Bite Fever. Couldn’t find much info and mainly contracted from – can you believe it – getting bitten by a rat. I wish all medical diseases had this straightforward of a taxonomy. Just to keep us on our toes, you can also get rat bite fever by ingesting food or water contaminated with rat feces. I did try to wash my hands well – so hopefully I didn’t ingest any badness.
Salmonellosis. Again – mainly from contaminated food or water. Hopefully my GI symptoms aren’t from this, but there are far scarier illnesses lurking in that rat crap.
South American Arenaviruses. These seem to be limited to South America. Gotta love when the names make sense.
Last, but definitely not least, that lovely disease known as Tularemia. Seems to be treatable with antibiotics. I love the name though, perhaps I will give one of my little F’ers a nickname of Tularemia.
So, that sums up the badness I found on the CDC website related to rat dung. Hopefully I will survive. However, if I do survive, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of other symptoms in the near future worth worrying about.