Rat bite disease left me in fight for life

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Aug 9, 2013 in Rat News | Subscribe

A man is lucky to be alive after he developed a rare and often deadly disease from a rat bite.

Chris Hammond was struck down by streptobacillosis, known as rat bite fever, after he was bitten on the hand.

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    Chris Hammond is lucky to be alive after contracting rat bite fever

The illness is only seen in Leicestershire about once a decade and is so dangerous it kills one in four who contracts it.

Chris was bitten by a friend’s pet rat on Saturday, July 27. Symptoms started appearing three days later.

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By the time he was diagnosed at Leicester Royal Infirmary on Sunday, August 4, the 28-year-old was in agony and had a rash all over his body.

Speaking from his bed in the infirmary’s infectious disease unit, Chris, from South Wigston, said: “I was at a friend’s house messing around with his pet rat. I was tormenting it a bit and was bitten three or four times on the hand.

“My symptoms started on the Tuesday with diarrhoea and sweating – I was getting really hot and then cold.

“I went to the infirmary walk-in surgery but they thought it was just a fever.

“On the Thursday, I went to my GP and he tested my rash to see if it was meningitis. It wasn’t. He told me to go back to hospital.”

Chris did not take his GP’s advice and went home instead, hoping to recover. Then, on Saturday, everything changed.

“My hands started to swell up and I was in excruciating pain,” said Chris.

“By Sunday, I couldn’t hold a cup of coffee. I went back to the infirmary and they diagnosed rat bite fever.”

Chris is responding well to treatment, said Dr Martin Wiselka, consultant in infectious diseases at the infirmary.

He is expected to spend the rest of this week in the infectious disease unit.

The condition is so rare, experts are photographing his visible symptoms and doctors from other departments are showing a keen interest.

Chris said: “They’re positive the antibiotics will work, but they said if it’s not caught in time it could be fatal.”

Rat bite fever is caused by a bacterium which is carried in the saliva of most rats, including pets. It is rare for enough rat saliva to get into a human’s blood supply to cause full-blown fever.

Dr Wiselka said the infection led to death in about one in four cases worldwide.

He said: “Rat bite fever is very rare and Chris was really quite poorly when he came in.

“He had a rash all over as well as joint swelling and pain.

“Rat bite fever has a 25 per cent mortality rate and kills people by causing multiple organ failure.

“But Chris is responding well to the treatment.

“He’s perked up a lot and is enjoying his celebrity status.

“We’ve been presenting him during the daily rounds and taking pictures.

“It’s a one-off.”

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