RAT BITE FEVER (Streptobacillus moniliformis)

Rat bite fever is a serious infectious disease in people caused by the bacteria Streptobacillus moniliformis. People become infected either by coming into contact with a rodent carrying the bacteria or through consumption of water or food that has been contaminated with rodent droppings or urine. While any person who comes into contact with the bacteria is at risk of developing the disease, children under 5 years of age, adults over 65 years of age, and immunocompromised people are at higher risk.

Rats who carry this bacteria will not show any signs of illness so we recommend all pet rats be tested. The test involves a swab of their mouth which is used to look for the DNA of the bacteria. There is no treatment that is 100% effective is removing this bacteria from positive rats. If a rat is positive, it should be considered positive for life.

If your rat is positive, take important steps to protect yourself by practicing good hygiene. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling your pet or its cage furnishings. Do not let your rat lick you. Avoid touching your face or mouth while handling your pet. Do not kiss your rat. Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling your rat. Keep pet rats out of the kitchen or anywhere food is prepared or consumed.

Symptoms of Rat Bite Fever in people include fever, vomiting, headache, muscle pain, joint pain or swelling, and rash. Symptoms can start as early as 3 days after exposure to the bacteria but sometimes can be delayed for up to 3 weeks. It is important that your physician knows you have pet rodents. If our feel ill or your rat bites or scratches you, inform your physician promptly so you can be placed on antibiotics. Untreated Rat Bite Fever infection in people can be deadly.

For more information on Rat Bite Fever visit the Center for Disease Control's website at https://www.cdc.gov/rat-bite-fever/index.html.