Saturday, April 25, 2015

What is Rat Bite Fever?


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.


  1. Yeah it is the same with most pets, most times nothing will occur if bitten or scratched and if something does it is easily treatable if people make sure and seek care.

  2. The one thing that has always worried when when I held a rat or even a mouse was being bitten.

  3. good of you to spread the word.

  4. never heard of it before

  5. Pat- If people just researched about their pet and what they could get or give to them this wouldn't be a problem.

    Chrys- I've been bitten several times but that's because the hamsters I had came from abusive homes and they were scared at first.

    TexWisGirl- :) People need to research the types of pets they have.

    Adam- Cool, you learned something new today.

  6. I would be more freaked out by salmonella carried by reptiles. One of my kids brought home the class pet lizard once and I wasn't thrilled.

  7. I am not sure if I ever heard about this or maybe the name for this disease is different here. I onyl heard about tetanus and get vaccinated last year again as my initial vaccination had worn off and didn't want to risk getting sick when a rat did scratch or bite me.

    Like you said it is very rare, the only rat we has ever bitten us was Pita (RIP), she was a very dominant female rat who sometimes woudl bite if you surprised her (like when she was sleeping and you woke her) and later when she got sick she bit quite regulary, which was one of the signs we realized something was wrong.

    I dislike the fact that people often assume or ask if our rats bite, as most rats don't bite ever. It only happens in rare cases and with Pita we mentioned that to visitors, one girl got bitten once when she surprised Pita and then never came close to them again. It's a bit frustrating how less people know of rats sometimes.

  8. Bijoux- I've heard about that. But as long as you wash your hands after handling the animal I'm guessing you're fine.

    Lola- I've written over 300 rat related articles here on my blog over the past 8 years in the hopes that they would help people understand rats a little better.

  9. I have to admit that seeing rats portrayed so negatively on movies, has always frightened me, so it's good to get actual positive education to minimize the fear factor. I had never heard of this either, but is you mentioned, research is key. Hugs...

  10. RO- Research is key and people who have pets should find out what types of ilnesses they can get from them.

  11. RO- Research is key and people who have pets should find out what types of ilnesses they can get from them.


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