How cockroaches spread disease

Diseases Spread by Cockroaches

Cockroaches present a significant risk to food safety due to their ability to vector and spread diseases. They contaminate food and food-handling surfaces via their droppings or mechanical transfer from their bodies. On the left are German cockroaches on a petri dish. On the right are colonies of E. coli transferred by the cockroaches. 



Contaminating Food and Food-Handing Surfaces

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the German cockroach is a known vector for diseases including: 

  • Salmonellosis – Salmonella food poisoning causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours. Symptoms are generally mild, but can be severe, especially for those with a compromised immune system.
  • Staphylococcus infections – This gastrointestinal illness develops soon after food is eaten and usually last about a day. The toxins are heat resistant so are not destroyed by cooking.
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally lives in the intestines of people and animals and some types can cause illness with diarrhea. 
  • Typhoid fever – This life-threatening illness is caused by Salmonella Typhi. When a contaminated food is consumed, the bacteria multiply and spread into the bloodstream. 
  • Gastroenteritis – inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines, generally leading to vomiting or diarrhea.
    General diarrhea.

People may become infected with any of these by eating or drinking a contaminated food or beverage. Cockroaches can also trigger asthma and other allergies. 
Learn more about Types of Cockroaches.

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