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How do cockroaches spread diseases? As they are reservoirs of organisms that cause disease and are not vectors themselves, cockroaches use other means to spread diseases.

Cockroaches can spread diseases through:

  • Feces
  • Saliva and vomit
  • Physical contact with food and surfaces

Cockroach feces
Due to their unsanitary eating habits, cockroaches can pass harmful pathogens through their droppings. When a cockroach feasts on something contaminated, such as a raw piece of chicken or animal feces, the microorganisms present will enter their system and may lay dormant or multiply in its digestive system. The pathogen can then be excreted in cockroach droppings and will contaminate surfaces and food where they crawl.

Cockroach saliva and vomit
Cockroach saliva and vomit are also responsible for spreading microorganisms. Cockroaches sometimes excrete saliva onto food before ingesting it and they also periodically disgorge partially digested food. These can both spread pathogens acquired from eating contaminated food materials.

Direct contact
Cockroaches can be found in many filthy environments that provide them with food, shelter and a suitable environment to survive. These include sewers, cesspools, drains, and garbage cans, where they come into contact with a range of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. These become attached to cockroaches’ bodies in the dust and liquid materials found there.

The legs of a cockroach, for example, have spines sensitive to touch and provide a very large surface area to pick up pathogens. Anything a cockroach touches or rubs may then become contaminated.

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How can you catch a disease from a cockroach?

You can catch a disease from a cockroach in a variety of ways. However, for the most part, cockroach diseases are caught by eating or coming into contact with items that a cockroach has contaminated.

Eating and drinking contaminated food


The most common form of transmission of a disease from a cockroach is from eating or drinking anything it has contaminated. This can either be through consuming food or drink contaminated by cockroaches, or by eating or drinking something that has been made using contaminated cooking utensils, cutlery or crockery, or touched contaminated surfaces.

Inhaling contaminated air

If the air supply is contaminated with dust containing particles of cockroach feces, dried saliva, vomit, or shed skin and this is inhaled by people suffering from asthma, the allergens can trigger an asthma attack.

Touching contaminated items

Touching items contaminated with a microorganism deposited by cockroaches is also a route through which transmission can occur. If you touch your eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound after touching a contaminated item, the pathogen can enter the body and cause infection.

How to prevent cockroaches spreading diseases


The most effective way to prevent cockroaches from spreading diseases in your home or business is to practice general food hygiene. This means removing any food sources — including tiny spills and food particles — that will attract them into your property and reduce the possibility of these crawling insects coming inside.

These methods include:

  • Eliminating food sources for cockroaches
  • Thorough cleaning where food is stored, prepared, cooked and eaten
  • Building maintenance to seal cracks and gaps through which they can enter
  • Following proper hand hygiene practices to prevent you from catching an infection from contaminated objects or surfaces