If your home is small and you don’t have room or are allergic to dogs or cats, many children like hamsters or guinea pigs. Rodents, such as mice, hamsters and guinea pigs, are popular pets in lots of 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. Pets 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 it to their unborn baby. LCMV can cause severe birth defects or even loss of pregnancy.
Pregnant moms can 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) is important.
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.
- 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. For more information on pets and other animals during pregnancy, click on this link.