If you live with pests side-by-side, you’re lucky to be ignored. In the worst case scenario, rodents may bite people or pets, and sometimes it leads to rat bite fever….

Rat Bite Fever Symptoms

If you live with pests side-by-side, you’re lucky to be ignored. In the worst case scenario, rodents may bite people or pets, and sometimes it leads to rat bite fever. What is that, and what to do, if a rat attacked you or your pet?

Facts About Rat Bite Fever

RBS is an acute human illness that is transmitted by rats, mice and other rodents through their saliva, urine or mucous discretions. It is also called streptobacillosis or epidemic arthritic erythema. Here are some rat bite fever facts:

  1. About half of cases of illness occurs in children that are bitten by either pet rats, or wild rodents due to house infestation.
  2. Laboratory workers are also often bitten by these animals.
  3. The disease is spread by some other animals, including weasels, squirrels, mice, cats and dogs.

Rats often bite laboratory workers.

Is Rat Bite Fever a Viral Infection?

Not exactly. There are two types of bacteria responsible for the illness: Spirillum minor or Streptobacillus, and is transmitted by direct contact usually. It means that a person can get infected by touching rats’ urine, waste or debris, eating or drinking contaminated foods. Most often, the infection is spread by rats bites.

A person can get infected by touching rats’ urine, waste or debris.

Where Is Rat Bite Fever Most Common?

Although there were some cases of the illness registered in the USA, Africa, Europe and Australia, it mostly affects Asian regions. There, a specific bacteria Spirillum minor dominates, which is why the local illness is called Spirillosis, or Sodoku. It slightly differs from Streptobacillosis in its symptoms, and required longer cure.

Rat Bite Fever Symptoms in Humans

Depending on bacteria invading an organism, rat bite fever symptoms in humans may vary. Most widespread are:

  • Inflammation around open wounds;
  • Rash;
  • Chilling;
  • Fever;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Headaches and muscle pain.
Rat Bite Fever Symptoms in Humans

One of the symptoms is a fever.

Streptobacillosis can also be accompanied by shivering, swelling and joint sore or reddening accompanied by pains in the back.

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Symptoms of rat bite fever typical of Sodoku include ulcer around bite wound (if there is any), lymph nodes swelling, repeated fever.

In case of Haverhill fever (when bacteria are transmitted via contaminated foods and water), people experience vomiting, dizziness and sore throat.

Incubation Period

Streptobacillosis symptoms appear during 3-10 days following the exposure to infection, but sometimes can appear in 3 weeks only. By this time, wounds heal, and it gets harder to identify the reasons for disease. Sodoku symptoms occur in 1-3 weeks after bacteria invade human body. Generally, this type of illness requires more time to recover from, and symptoms disappear slower.

Rat Bite Fever Blood Test

The diagnosis of the disease usually consists of medical tests. Blood, skin, or mucus samples are usually examined. If streptobacillary bacteria need to be defined, living organisms are cultivated and observed. When doctors suspect spirillary fever, testing is done by direct visualization of organisms in blood smears. Blood antibody tests are also required.

If you are bitten by a rat, you take a blood test.

Side Effects of Rat Bite Fever

After rat bite, instant first aid is necessary. If left untreated, diseases can be lethal. Mortality rate for Sodoku is 13%, and for Streptobacillosis – 10%. But even if a person survives, disease ignorance may lead to serious consequences including:

  1. Heart and heart valve infections (myocarditis, pericarditis or endocarditis).
  2. Meningitis and other brain infections.
  3. Severe lung diseases (pneumonia).
  4. Abscesses of internal organs.

Bacteria may affect separate organs and body systems.

Rat Bite Fever in Babies

If a child or a small baby gets attacked by a rat, doctor’s help is required immediately. The disease is likely to affect a kid faster, and symptoms usually appear sooner. But they remind of flu symptoms, which is why sometimes treatment is started too late. In most cases, antibiotics are taken right away to decrease the risk of infection.

Rat Bite Fever in Babies

Keep children safe from rats!

Rat Bite Fever Treatment

The sooner rat bite fever treatment is organized, the more are the chances to recover without any side effects. If it is ignored, the risks of dying from infection are 10-13%, and in some places these are to 12 months. As a rule, doctors prescribe medical tests and antibiotics to be taken right away. It helps to ease symptoms and prevent further infection.


Both kinds of diseases are cured with penicillin and tetracyclines. As a rule, doctors prescribe taking it for 1-2 weeks to ensure total recovery. People with allergy to penicillin, alternative drugs are offered, such as ampicillin, cefotaxime, or cefuroxime. Children are given special Penicillin G during 7-10 days intravenously or in injections.


When treatment is required the use of antibiotics.

Amoxicillin For Rat Bite Fever

Amoxicillin is suitable for both people and pets, and also serves to prevent infection. It should be taken orally during 2-3 days after rat bite. An average dose is 100 mg/kg a day.

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Rat Bite Fever in Dogs and Cats

A pet can be infected through the direct contact with infected pests (by scratches or bites), or by consuming foods and water containing the residues of urine or feces. Sometimes they have no signs of illness, but most often it results into swollen and painful joints and heart infections. Other symptoms may include nervousness, aggressiveness, or depressed state.

If your pet was bitten by a rat, immediately carry it into a veterinary clinic.


If a pet has been bitten by rats, the wound should be properly washed by cool water and cleansed with antiseptic solution. After that, veterinarian’s help is required soon. He will prescribe antibiotics and amoxicillin per oral for several days. It is highly important to start treating an animal as soon as possible, because it may also transmit infection.

Wounds should be washed with soap regularly, and some ointment against skin inflammation may be used to boost recovery process.

If the cat or dog got bit by a rat, treat the wound with antiseptic.

Rat Bite Fever Prevention

To protect your family from rat bites and infections, follow these recommendations:

  1. Avoid contacting with rats infesting your house. If possible, stop the infestation, or move out.
  2. Drink pasteurized milk only and water from safe sources. Do not consume water and foods that may have been contaminated by the pests.
  3. If you own a rat, check it for being ill via medical tests. When handling it, put protective gloves on and don’t forget to wash your hands with soap thoroughly. Do not touch your mouth with your hands after keeping or touching the animal or its cage.
  4. Do not let your pets contact with rats. If an animal has been bitten, or ingested a rat (whether dead or alive), contact a veterinarian immediately.
  5. If you or your pet has been scratched, or bitten by a rodent, cleanse the wound and apply antiseptic. After that, call a doctor.
Although rat bite fever is an uncommon occasion in most areas except Asian regions, this disease still occurs eventually, and may expose huge danger to human life and health. Thus, it should be treated immediately after bites or even slightest suspicions of having been bitten. Take care of your family and your pets, and avoid letting rats into your life!

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