When people think of pest control, what usually comes to mind is spraying roaches with insecticide, using ant baits and treating yards for fleas. However, pests aren’t just a nuisance, and controlling them is essential not just to prevent personal inconvenience but also to protect public health.

For instance, the biggest killer in the world isn’t a human being or a “scary” animal like a shark or bear: It’s an insect. Mosquitoes cause an average of two million human deaths each year through vector-borne diseases like malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis.

The mosquito is just one example of pests that are capable of adversely impacting health on a massive scale. Countless others, from rats to fleas, can spread diseases, contaminate food supplies and worsen existing health conditions.

In this article, we dive deeper into the relationship between pest control and public health and learn why pest management is crucial to preventing illness.

Public Health Problems Caused by Pests

Pest control is more than just for keeping homes and businesses free from annoying pests. It is essential for protecting the public from serious health problems caused by pests. As such, pest control and public health go hand in hand.

Pest control professionals play an important role in protecting public health. Their work in controlling pest populations helps promote a safer environment.

The following are some health problems caused by insects, rodents and other pests.

Vector-Borne Diseases

Disease vectors are living organisms that transmit infectious agents, such as parasites, viruses and bacteria, from an animal to another animal or a human. Some of the most common vectors are insects, specifically arthropods like fleas, mosquitoes and ticks. Vectors may cause serious and sometimes fatal diseases.

One of the most famous examples of vector-borne diseases is the bubonic plague, behind the Black Death pandemic that killed 75 to 200 million people from 1346 to 1353. The bubonic plague is a disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is spread by fleas.

While the plague still exists in many parts of the world today, it is no longer as common or as devastating, thanks to modern antibiotics. However, there are still many other vector-borne diseases. Some examples are:

Diseases Transmitted by Mosquitoes 

  • Chikungunya
  • Dengue
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Lymphatic filariasis
  • Malaria
  • Zika

Diseases Transmitted by Lice 

  • Louse-borne relapsing fever
  • Typhus

Diseases Transmitted by Ticks 

  • Lyme disease
  • Tick-borne encephalitis
  • Tularaemia

Significant outbreaks of vector-borne diseases claim lives and overwhelm health systems. While they are not always fatal, vector-borne conditions can result in life-long symptoms and disability.

Zoonotic Diseases

Animals can also spread diseases. They do so in many ways, such as through bites, contaminating water or food supplies and direct or indirect contact with their urine or feces.

Rats, mice and other rodents can transmit various illnesses, including:

  • Leptospirosis
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Salmonellosis
  • Rabies
  • Hantavirus

Meanwhile, raccoons, another common pest, can infect people with: 

  • Raccoon roundworm
  • Giardiasis
  • Rabies

Foodborne Illnesses

As any farmer or anyone working in a facility that deals with food will know, pests are a constant challenge to food safety and health. Rodents, birds and insects not only damage crops; they also increase the risk of spoilage and transmission of various pathogens.

Insects like mites, moths and weevils can find their way into stored food, like grains, flour and seeds, by creating tiny holes and burrowing into food packaging. This can lead to contamination. Rats, mice, cockroaches, pigeons and other pests can also contaminate food simply by touching it–These pests crawl on dirty surfaces, picking up germs that they then transfer onto food.

Additionally, some pests, like rats and mice, carry bacteria, viruses, as well as fleas, mites and ticks that could cause salmonella and e-coli infections. Others, like cockroaches, have harmful organisms on their bodies that may lead to typhoid, dysentery and other diseases.

Other pests that can put food safety at risk include:

  • Stored product insects like silverfish and flour weevils
  • Ants
  • Wasps
  • Flies
  • Birds

Allergies and Respiratory Illnesses

Some insects and animal pests have certain chemicals and proteins in their skin and dander that can trigger allergic reactions and worsen symptoms of respiratory illnesses. For instance, cockroaches and dust mites are two of the most common triggers of allergies and asthma.

Cockroaches’ saliva, feces and body part fragments can become airborne. When inhaled, they can aggravate symptoms of respiratory conditions and trigger allergies.

Meanwhile, about 20 million people in the U.S. are allergic to dust mites. The droppings of these tiny insects are a leading allergy trigger nationwide. What’s more, nearly all U.S. homes have dust mites.

Symptoms of dust mite allergies range from minor, such as nasal congestion, cough and sneezing, to severe. A person with a dust mite allergy who also has asthma is at risk of more serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, chest tightness and wheezing.

Pest Control and Public Health: How Pest Control Companies Help Mitigate Disease Risks

Pest control companies can help prevent illnesses caused by pests through a combination of methods geared at one or more of the following:

  • Prevention of pest infestations
  • Suppression of pests by reducing their numbers
  • Eradication of pests by eliminating an entire pest population

The approach used to deal with pests depends on several factors, such as the type of pest, its lifecycle and severity. It can involve a combination of chemical and physical control methods performed on a regular basis.

  • Chemical Methods: These are the most well-known ways of controlling pests. They involve the use of pesticides and rodenticides.
  • Physical Control Methods: These involve using tools, equipment and pest-proofing gear to prevent pest infestations or exterminate pests. Some examples are traps, baits and temperature control to slow down the growth of insects or eliminate them.

Pest control companies are experts in identifying, managing and preventing infestations. By controlling and eliminating pests, pest control companies help reduce the risk of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases as well as foodborne illnesses. Through their services, they help promote healthier communities and create safer environments in homes and places of business.

Protect Your Health and Get Expert Help With a Pest Infestation

At Pest Control Unlimited, we believe that it is important to provide the public with information on pest control methods so they can take steps to prevent infestations from worsening and mitigate the risk of pest-borne illnesses. For instance, simple measures, such as storing leftover food in sealed containers, keeping dishes from piling up, emptying trash bins and making sure there is no stagnant water in and around your property, go a long way toward keeping your surroundings pest-free. 

If preventative measures fail or you’re already dealing with a pest infestation at your home or business, you can rely on us for expert assistance. 

Pest Control Unlimited is a trusted provider of pest control solutions serving residential and commercial clients in Middlesex County and surrounding areas. Our team stays up to date on the latest and most effective pest management methods and practices to ensure the best possible results for our clients. 

We tailor our services according to our client’s unique needs. Our team uses the highest quality products and the latest equipment to keep their homes and businesses safe from mosquitoes, cockroaches, rats and other pests. 

We stand behind the quality of our work. For your peace of mind, we offer a pest control guarantee. This means that we won’t call the job done until you’re completely satisfied with our services. 

To learn more about our pest control solutions, please get in touch with our team.