Posts Tagged ‘hamsters’

Hamsters, guinea pigs and pet mice

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

guinea-pig2My girlfriend Joyce had a pet guinea pig named Rambo.  He was a weird little dude with majorly funky hair, but we all liked him a lot.  One day we were told that Rambo had been given to a neighbor because my friend was hoping to become pregnant soon.  Apparently, pet rodents can pose a health challenge to pregnant women (who knew?) and moving Rambo out was Joyce’s way of dealing with the issue.

Rodents, such as mice, hamsters and guinea pigs, are popular pets in many homes. But women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant should be very careful with rodents. These animals may carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV).

The house mouse, a wild rodent found near and in homes, is the main source of the virus. Pet rodents like hamsters and guinea pigs can become infected with LCMV after being in contact with wild rodents at a breeding facility, pet store or home.  People can get LCMV through contact with a rodent’s urine, blood, saliva, droppings or nesting materials. The infection can also spread when a person breathes in dust or droplets that have LCMV.  (Examples: while sweeping up mouse droppings or cleaning out the hamster cage.)  Pregnant women who get LCMV can pass the infection to their unborn baby.  LCMV can cause severe birth defects or loss of pregnancy.

Pregnant moms can keep their pet and lower their chance of getting LCMV by:

• Keeping pet rodents in a separate part of the home
• Asking another family member to care for the pet and clean its cage
• Washing hands with soap and water after handling pet rodents
• Keeping rodent cages clean and free of soiled bedding
• Cleaning the cage in a well-ventilated area or outside
• Keeping pet rodents away from your face
• Avoiding contact with wild rodents
• If a house has rats or mice, taking care of the problem quickly with either mouse traps or calling a professional pest control company (talk to your health care provider before using any pest control chemicals in your home)

If you have children, especially under the age of 5, be sure an adult closely watches them when they are around pet rodents.  No one should kiss pet rodents or hold them close to the face, no matter how cute they are.  Anyone who plays with the animals or cleans their cages or bedding should wash their hands afterwards.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more information, including how to safely handle pet rodents and clean cages.