You might have heard last year about the 10 year old boy who died after contracting streptobacillus moniliformis, also known as Rat Bite Fever. There are two types of rat bite fever, the most common one is streptobacillus moniliformis, which is found in the United States, and Spirillum Minus, which is primarily found in Asia.
Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, vomiting and rash. The symptoms may occur anywhere from 3-10 days of being infected. Anyone with rats should known these symptoms and get treated immediately as this disease is rare and completely treatable.
According to the CDC, "RBF is rare in the United States. Accurate data about incidence rates are unavailable because the disease may not be reportable to state health departments. Since RBF is not a nationally notifiable disease, trends in disease incidence in the U.S. are not available. Recent case reports have highlighted the potential risk for RBF among persons having contact with rodents at home or in the workplace."
How Is Rat Bite Fever Transmitted?
Streptobacillus Moniliformis can be transmitted to humans through rat bites, scratches or handling an infected rodent. This disease is not transmitted from human to human. There are no vaccines for rat bite fever and pet rats do not get vaccinations.
Most pet rats will not bite but if they have been abused or are scared, bites can happen. Most bites will heal on their own within a few days and need no medical treatment but if after a rat bite you get flu like symptoms, you should seek treatment and make sure your doctor knows about the bite. Rat bite fever is completely treatable and the rare occurrence of it should not prevent you from adopting a rat.
I've had rats for 20 years and have been bitten on the rare occasion with no problems. It is up to you to research the type of pet you have and make sure you are informed about how to care for them, what diseases they can get as well as what diseases you can get from them.