When we think of diseases associated with mice, we generally think of Hantavirus, Salmonella, and other diseases. But as we enter the busy rodent season people need to be aware of another mouse-borne disease. Called “mouse meningitis” by some, its full name is lymphocytic choriomeningitis, or LCM for short. The virus that causes this disease is lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, or LCVM.
Like Hantavirus, people can get LCM when they are exposed to fresh urine, droppings, saliva, or nesting materials from infected mice. Only the common house mouse carries the virus (although pet hamsters can catch it from house mice). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 5 percent of house mice in the U.S. carry LCVM virus. The virus occurs throughout the country. Once mice are infected, they remain infected for their entire life and can continue to infect people and other mice.
Although mice never show any signs of the illness themselves, infected people start off with “flu-like symptoms”, then the disease starts to have neurologic symptoms. Pregnant women who become infected with the virus can pass the virus along to their baby, who may suffer serious consequences, including mental retardation.