Monmouth and Ocean County, NJ parents should be aware of a tragic event that recently occurred in San Diego. A 10-year-old boy died from rat bite fever contracted from his pet rat which was purchased at Petco. The boy died just hours after being rushed to the hospital with severe abdominal pains.
Associated with rat pests and wild rats, rat bite fever is rare in North America but common in Asia. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned that the growing popularity of keeping rats as pets has increased the risk of contracting the disease, particularly for pet store employees.
Although unaffected by the disease themselves, rats are natural carriers and transmitters of the two specific bacteria that cause rat bite fever. The disease is passed from rat to rat by direct contact and from rats to humans and other animals through the animal’s saliva, urine or feces. Infection is usually caused by a bite or scratch from an infected rat; but kissing or handling an infected pet or coming into contact with its urine or feces can also expose the pet owner.
While treatable, rat bite fever can be misdiagnosed, allowing the disease to become life threatening. Symptoms do not usually begin until three weeks after exposure by which time the bite or scratch that caused the infection may be long forgotten. Initial symptoms of the disease are often mistaken for flu, further delaying treatment. One telltale sign of rat bite fever is the development of a rash on the hands and feet two to four days after fever begins.
If your child has a pet rat and is bitten or scratched or develops flu-like symptoms, Allison Pest Control’s rat extermination NJ experts urge parents to seek immediate medical attention for their child.