What Is Rat-Bite Fever?

Before anything else, rat-bite fever should not be confused with rabies. Rabies is caused by the rhabdovirus, while the rat-bite fever is caused by the Streptobacillus moniliformis and the Spirillum minus. Both of these diseases are caused by a rat bite, although you can also get rat-bite fever if you accidentally ingested contaminated food and water.

Of note though, rats are not the only animals that can cause this type of fever. In fact, other rodents can cause this as well, such as squirrels and gerbils.

Symptoms of Rat-Bite Fever

As mentioned earlier, two types of bacteria can cause this disease.

  1. Streptobacillus moniliformis infection. Symptoms of rat-bite fever caused by Streptobacillus moniliformis do not show up after about a couple of weeks to a month after having been exposed to the bacteria. The symptoms of this disease include a wound site that heals slowly as well as marked inflammation of the bitten site. There is also fever that typically lasts longer than the slowly-healing wound site. In some cases, the fever is even recurrent over a period of months. The patient may also suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms, although they are usually mild. There may also even be some rectal pain. Treatment for this condition is penicillin.
  2. Spirillum minus. On the other hand, rat-bite fever caused by the Spirillum minus bacteria is much more severe compared to that of the Streptobacillus moniliformis bacteria. After about a couple of days to ten days, the patient will experience debilitating fever coupled with rigors as well as pain in multiple joints. It is also oftentimes accompanied by a headache. The patient will also break out in rashes, and arthritis symptoms of the large joints will appear. If the patient does not seek any medical attention, the disease could be very fatal as complications from the disease develop. Some of the complications include endocarditis as well as meningioencephalitis and parotitis as well as tenosynovitis. The patient could also go into septic shock. Treatment for this type of rat-bite disease also includes penicillin, although tetracycline may also be given.

The patient is usually on antibiotics for a couple of weeks. Prognosis for both types of rat-bite fever is good, provided the patient received early treatment. If left untreated, death rate from this disease increases to about 25%.

First-Aid Treatment

If you get bitten by a rat, you need to clean the area immediately. Wash it with soap and water and go to the nearest hospital immediately for treatment. You may also take antibiotics like penicillin as soon as a rat bit you, as this can help prevent progression of the disease.

Preventing Rat-Bite Fever

It’s easy to prevent rat-bite fever. Simply don’t enter or visit place that are known for severe rat infestation. If you have rats at home, then you need to take care of the problem immediately. Set up traps to get rid of them; seal up holes that they can use as entryways; and maintain a clean home especially the kitchen. If these steps don’t help to control and eliminate rat population in your home, then visit your local pest control company. They can easily get rid of these pests for you.


Jennifer Daleo writes for RovePestControl.com. Rats are a common problem, and they need to be eliminated immediately. One good way of doing this is by hiring a reputable pest control company.

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