Are you thinking of getting a pet hamster and wondering whether some diseases can be transmitted from hamsters to humans? There is not much to worry about. Hamsters are clean animals, and there are only a few diseases that they can transmit to humans, which is also less likely.
Usually, young children, pregnant women, and people with weak immunity are the ones who are prone to the risk of catching zoonotic diseases. But, you don’t need to panic. On a scale from 1 to 10, the chances of catching such diseases from little hammy are only at 2. The risk decreases to 1 in the case of healthy adults and grown-up children.
With that in mind, if you are worried about hamsters giving you diseases, this article will help you out. In the article, we will cover some of the common hamster diseases and how to reduce the risk of infection. So, let’s start.
What Diseases Can A Hamster Transmit To Humans?
Even if the chances of getting zoonosis from your hamster are almost nonexistent, we can’t ignore even the slightest risk. So, let’s discuss some of the common diseases of hamsters that can be transmitted to humans.
Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (LCM) Virus
It is a viral infection with a few symptoms only. It mostly does not show any initial signs in hamsters, or in some cases, your hamster may look a bit inactive or lose some appetite. But with time, the condition can worsen. Your hamster will lose weight, and its posture can even get a bit stooped. If not treated in time, your hamster may die.
Hamsters usually get this infection when they come in contact with wild rodents and mice.
The cases of transmission of LCM into humans are sporadic. However, an immunocompromised individual can get severely affected if they get infected. Even LCM is dangerous for pregnant women too. It can lead to miscarriage or congenital disability in pregnant women.
LCM virus can get transmitted to humans through inhalation or if they come in contact with infected hamster’s urine, saliva, and feces.
Most commonly, a hamster’s dry urine carries this virus. So, when you clean the cage of the carrier hamster or scratch the dry urine and by chance inhale the dust, you can get infected. So, it would be best if you always use a mask while cleaning the cage.
Symptoms of LCM virus in humans:
- Fever or flu-like conditions.
- Loss of appetite.
- Stiffness in muscles.
Another disease that hamsters most commonly transmit to humans is Dermatophytosis, also known as ringworm (a fungal infection). It causes a red, itchy, raised skin at well-delineated areas and develops a lighter shade in the centre. It appears like a ring and hence, gets its name.
You can know that your pet is suffering from this infection if you notice the following signs:
- Hamsters start to lose hair.
- Some areas of the skin without hair start forming a crust.
- The infected area becomes reddish, and your hammy feels itchiness over there.
- Dry circular lesions on the head region or on the back of your hamster.
- Fingernails start to crumble or even come off.
- This infection can get transmitted to humans by coming in direct contact with the infected skin, fur, or dander of the pet, and you do not wash hands after the contact. Also, note that an individual is most likely to get infected if his skin is damaged or moist.
Common signs of ringworm in humans are:
- Swelled up nails that afterwards crumble and peel off.
- Skin rash.
- The affected area will lose hair and form a red ring.
- Itchy red skin.
It is not very common for a hamster to contract rabies, as most of the time, hamsters die due to the physical trauma of getting bitten by a rabid animal. Even if the little creature survives the bite, an infected hamster rarely bites a human, and the infection does not get transmitted. However, some reports have come out of hamsters transmitting rabies to humans in Canada.
Rabies affects the nervous system, and an infected hamster shows the following signs:
If unfortunately, the carrier hamster bites you and after a few days, you come across the following symptoms, then the chances are that you have been infected:
- Shivering and feeling cold.
- Feeling tired.
- Loss of appetite.
- Anxiety and headache.
The bacterium of Salmonellosis lives in the digestive system of the hamster. Your pet can get infected by consuming any infected raw meat, or the infection can be passed through the feces of any other infected rodent.
Finding that your hamster is suffering from such an intestinal bacteria is really difficult as it does not show any symptoms. In some cases, the only symptom is diarrhea, which is also rare to see in hamsters.
This bacterium can only be transmitted to humans through the fecal-oral route. So, you must wear gloves whenever you clean your pet’s cage and wash your hands after every play session with your little pal.
Humans suffering from Salmonellosis can have the following symptoms:
- Abdominal cramps.
The tapeworm of mice and the rats can infect hamsters, and there are slight chances that it can get passed on to humans too.
A hamster can get infected by tapeworm by coming in contact with the rodent carrying Rodentolepiasis and Hymenolepiasis or by swallowing intermediate host insects like flies or beetles.
The chances of humans getting the tapeworms are through the fecal-oral route only. But, there is not much to worry about as these infections rarely cause any disease to humans. They are usually self-limiting, and therefore there is no need for any treatment. The adult worm dies within 4-6 weeks.
Tularemia is one such bacterial infection that is usually found in hares, rabbits, and rodents. This bacterium is generally found in the northern hemisphere, which includes the USA and Canada.
Those hamsters and people who get infected by it can have the following symptoms:
- Skin ulcer.
- Enlarged lymph nodes.
This bacterium is highly infectious as only 10 to 50 bacteria is enough to infect an individual. But, only one case has been reported up till now of suspected transmission of Tularemia from hamster to human. So, the chances that this bacterium infects your hamster are really slim.
Tips To Avoid Contracting Zoonotic Diseases From Hamster
Keeping your hamster’s cage clean is the key point to focus on. The cage must be cleaned once a week which includes changing the beddings soiled by feces and urine.
Make it a habit always to use a mask and gloves while cleaning the cage to get nothing infectious into your nostrils and on your hands.
Cleaning of the cage must also include disinfecting it by using a hamster-friendly disinfectant spray.
Another essential point is taking care of hand hygiene. It is necessary that you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water before and after the playing session with your hamster. It will prevent any germ transmission from your hand to the hamster and vice versa.
For protection against zoonosis, it will be wise if you don’t touch your mouth, face, clothes, or any other body part while interacting with your hamster.
Usually, bacteria, viruses, and parasites get transmitted from hamsters to humans through their bites. So, avoid being bitten by your little hammy. You can prevent it by taming your pet using gloves during the initial days and learning to grip and handle it properly.
Supervising the children to follow all the essential steps is also necessary.
In this article, we have already discussed that there are very slim chances that a person having a hamster will experience any zoonotic diseases. So, you don’t need to get worked up about can hamsters give you diseases or not.
Hamsters are safe creatures to pet as they rarely carry any diseases that can get transmitted and harm humans.
Even for children and pregnant women, hamsters can prove to be good friends if they follow all the steps mentioned above and take care of all the hygienic measures.