Short answer: it’s highly unlikely. The World Health Organization has definitively stated that mosquitoes do not spread the coronavirus. The CDC has no data to suggest that ticks or mosquitoes can transmit the disease, either. Likewise, the CDC considers the risk of COVID-19 transmission from animal contact very low.
The coronavirus spreads primarily when a person comes into contact with respiratory droplets produced by an infected person. Someone may directly inhale or otherwise come into contact with an infected person’s droplets after that person sneezes or coughs, for instance. Though it isn’t theoretically impossible to contract the coronavirus from certain animal pest droplets, there’s evidence that it has ever happened.
Pests aren’t considered a major risk factor for transmitting the coronavirus because of the way most pest disease transmission works. Here’s what you should know about how pest borne transmission, the spread of the coronavirus, and protecting yourself from pest borne diseases of all kinds:
How pest borne transmission works
Different pests transmit diseases in different ways. Infamously, mosquitoes and ticks transmit diseases through their bites. Whenever mosquitoes or ticks feed, they may introduce diseases that were present in their previous prey’s blood into their current victim’s bloodstream. Mosquitoes and ticks are infamous bloodborne disease vectors. In fact, mosquitoes are considered one of the most deadly animals in the world for their ability to spread very serious diseases like malaria, the west nile virus, or yellow fever.
Other pests spread diseases less directly. Rodents can spread disease through their bites, but most you’re more likely to contract a disease from a rodent after inadvertently coming into contact with their waste. Rodents may also act as transports for other disease vectors such as fleas (you probably remember learning that this was how the Black Plague spread). Roaches are another serious disease vector, but they don’t bite at all. Instead, they contaminate surfaces and food sources with waste that you may contact or ingest.
Why the coronavirus is unlikely to spread via pests
The COVID-19-causing virus SARS-CoV-2 does not circulate in the bloodstream, meaning ticks and mosquitoes do not ingest it when feeding. Even if the pests did somehow ingest the disease, it would have to not only survive the digestion process but also transfer to the mosquito or tick’s salivary glands in order to be transmitted during a subsequent feeding. There is no evidence that this process is even possible, and no evidence that anyone has contracted COVID-19 from a mosquito or tick bite.
The possibility of COVID-19 spreading through pest waste is also very low. Researchers have found evidence that animals may contract the disease, but there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading COVID-19. COVID-19 has been found in some infected human (not pest) waste, but it’s unknown whether the disease could be contracted from this waste. In other words, in order to contract COVID-19 from pest waste, that pest would have to contract COVID-19 in the first place, and then COVID-19 would have to survive in that pest’s waste until you came into contact with it. There is no evidence that this has ever happened.
To summarize: COVID-19 is not a bloodborne disease, so mosquitoes and ticks cannot transmit it through their bites. We aren’t 100% sure whether COVID-19 could be contracted through contact with pest waste, but the possibility is very low. Even if you came into contact with pest droplets, there’s no evidence that those droplets would be infected.
What about the first case of COVID-19?
Yes, the COVID-19 causing virus SARS-CoV-2 was initially zoonotic, meaning it naturally occurred in animals and transferred to humans. We know that the virus was first contracted by people in the Wuhan region of China in late December 2019. Researchers found that SARS-CoV-2 likely has an ecological origin in bat populations. The WHO believes there also may have been an intermediate animal source between bats and humans.
Given the facts, a common rumor explaining the origin of COVID-19 is that the first person to contract the disease from animals did so by consuming food that contained an infected animal’s remains purchased at the Wuhan Huanan Seafood Market. No experts have substantiated this rumor. It is also possible that people initially contracted the virus from contact or consumption of animal waste, for instance. That is probably how ebola first migrated to people. All cases of SARS-CoV-2 isolated from human cases are very genetically similar. This suggests a single, initial introduction to the human population, which people subsequently spread amongst themselves. In other words, while COVID-19 may have started in animals, it spreads from person to person–not from animals (or pests) to people.
First and foremost: it is very unlikely you will contract the coronavirus from contact with pests. Mosquitoes and ticks can’t transmit it, and it’s very unlikely it exists in pest waste. Human respiratory droplets are the primary means by which COVID-19 spreads. Minimize your chances of encountering (or spreading!) the disease by staying home when possible, observing social distancing rules, washing your hands frequently, and wearing a mask when out in public.
That being said, there are still (as always) good reasons to practice integrated pest control during shelter in place. If you’re worried about the people in your home or your pets touching pest waste, the best way to prevent it is to A) remove pests from your home and B) thoroughly clean areas where they may have produced waste. Pests may not transmit the coronavirus, but keeping them out is an important way to keep your home clean… which is especially important when you’re stuck inside!
If you want COVID-19-conscious, safe pest control that’s just as effective as ever, give Griffin a call any time. We’ve altered our pest control treatments to minimize contact without compromising our results. Read more about how we’re staying safe during the outbreak here, and get in touch whenever you need pest help. We’ll solve your problem, no ifs, ants, or bugs. Stay safe!
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention – “COVID-19 and Animals”
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) FAQ
- World Health Organization – “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters”
- Pestworld.org – “Is Coronavirus Transmitted by Pests?”
- Time Magazine – “The West Blames the Wuhan Coronavirus on China’s Love of Eating Wild Animals. The Truth Is More Complex”
- Propublica – “The CDC and WHO Have Already Said Mosquitoes Don’t Spread Coronavirus. Now USDA Will Study It, Too.”