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Pet Rat Scratch Kills Child; CDC Warns of Risk | RatChatter

Pet Rat Scratch Kills Child; CDC Warns of Risk

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Dec 20, 2014 in Rat News | Subscribe

Pet Rat Scratch Kills Child; CDC Warns of Risk

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By EJ Mundell

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The tragic death from “rat-bite fever” of a 10-year-old San Diego boy highlights the risk carried by the pet rodents, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Rat-bite fever is a rare but potentially fatal illness that should be considered in persons with rash, fever and joint pain, and when a history of rodent exposure is reported,” said a team led by Dr. Jessica Adam of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service.

The case outlined in the report occurred in August of 2013. Adam’s team said the boy, previously healthy, first developed a fever of 102.6 degrees and “experienced rigors, fevers, vomiting, headaches and leg pains.”

His doctor initially diagnosed the illness as infection with a gastrointestinal virus. But “during the next 24 hours, the patient experienced vomiting and persistent fever. He was confused and weak before collapsing at home,” the CDC report said.

By the time paramedics reached the boy he was “unresponsive,” and he died in a hospital emergency department.

Blood tests and autopsy reports revealed infection with Streptobacillus moniliformis, a potentially deadly germ that causes rat-bite fever and “can be transmitted to humans through rodent bites or scratches; approximately one in 10 bites might cause infection,” according to the CDC authors.

Adam and her colleagues said that the boy had two pet rats: the first one tested negative for S. moniliformis, but the second, recently acquired, tested positive. “The autopsy report noted that patient had been scratched by his pet rats,” the researchers said.

Adam’s team suggested that rat-bite fever could be under-reported because the condition does not have to be reported to health authorities in the United States.

Trying to determine its overall incidence, they looked through hospital records in San Diego County for 2000-2012 and found 16 cases during that time period, which did not include the one fatal case involving the 10-year-old in 2013.

“Most infections (94 percent) were pet-associated,” the team noted. “One patient had an occupational exposure (rat breeder). Sixteen of 17 patients reported exposure to rats. Of these, 44 percent reported only having handled a rat, 38 percent reported being bitten and 13 percent reported a scratch.”

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