Do Cockroaches Carry Any Diseases Harmful to Humans?

Cockroaches are a source of allergens and can trigger acute asthma attacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While cockroaches are not a proven source of disease, they can carry and spread pathogens or bacteria that are harmful to humans, including salmonella, E. coli and the poliomyelitis virus.

Cockroaches have been linked to the spread of more than 30 kinds of bacteria, seven types of human pathogens and six parasitic worms, note Allergens that can trigger severe allergic reactions or asthma attacks are found in cockroach feces, saliva and body parts. The first cockroach allergy was reported in 1943, when patients developed rashes immediately after cockroaches crawled on their skin, notes. Studies have found more than 75 percent of urban homes have cockroaches, and up to 70 percent of urban residents with asthma are sensitive to cockroach allergens.

The sight of cockroaches can also cause severe emotional and psychological distress, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are more than 50 species of cockroaches in the United States, including the German, American, Australian, Oriental, brown-banded and brown cockroach.

Cockroaches prefer warm environments with easy access to food and water, and are commonly found in buildings in densely populated areas, notes Some cockroaches can live up to three months without food and a month without water.