You may not always see rats but that doesn’t mean that they are not around. Studies have shown that you will find a greater population of rats within urban areas because of easy access to food and shelter but the rural areas of a city are also prone to rats which are typically found among tall grasses, shrubs and underneath the foundation of homes. Rats can carry an array of diseases so being aware of where rats may be living is important to guard you from any transmission of disease.
Rat Bite Fever – What Is It?
Rat Bite Fever is an infectious disease that is caused by two seperate bacterias known as Streptobacillus moniliformis and Spirillum minus. Streptobacillus moniliformis is the only reported bacteria that causes RBF in North America while Spirillum minus is more common in Asia, also known as sudoku. RBF can be spread through bites, scratches or even contact with the dead rodent.
Symptoms Of Rat Bite Fever
Symptoms of Streptobacillus moniliformis
Symptoms of RBF associated with this particular bacteria include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, swelling, vomiting and/or presence of a rash. If diagnosis is not given early after transmission of the bacteria it can lead to serious illness or death. Symptoms usually present themselves with 3-10 days of contact with the bacteria but have been known to present themselves up to 3 weeks after. Rashes will typically appear a couple of days after a fever with the rash appearing red, flat and spots of small bumps. At this point, joints may begin to swell, show redness and become painful.
Symptoms of Spirillum minus
Symptoms of RBF associated with Spirillum minus may include an unsteady fever, swelling or ulcer like formation at the site of the bite, swollen lymph nodes and rash that can appear at wound site or cover the entire body. The symptoms can present themselves anywhere between 1-3 weeks after contact with the bacteria. Any wound associated with rats or other rodents should be followed up with medical attention.
Complications Of Rat Bite Fever
Outside of the symptoms of RBF, complications can also result from infection. Complications from Streptobacillary RBF can include infection to the liver causing hepatitis, infection to the kidneys resulting in nephritis, infection to the lungs causing pneumonia, infection to the brain and nervous system leading to meningitis, infection to the heart causing endocarditis, myocarditis or pericarditis, abscesses throughout the inside of the body typically within the abdominal cavity and even death. Statistics show that 1 in 10 people who end up with a RBF infection die.
Complications resulting from the bacteria Spirillum minus can include myocarditis, meningitis, hepatitis, pleural effusions, conjunctivitis, epididymitis, anemia and in extreme cases endocarditis which is more often seen with pre-existing valvular abnormalities.
Treatment And Prevention Of RBF
Both bacterial types of RBF can be treated with antibiotics. The most common antibiotics used to treat Rat Bite Fever are amoxicillin, penicillin, erythromycin or doxycycline. If endocarditis sets in then treatment of RBF along with endocarditis will typically be treated with penicillin on top of another antibiotic.
There are simple ways to prevent transmission of RBF. First, avoiding rats or any other type of rodent is your best safety measure. Calling a professional who deals with rodents is always a better option if they have invaded your personal living space. Avoiding the areas in which they are inhabiting as well as anything that the rats or other rodents have come into contact with is also an encouraged safety measure. If you happen to have to handle rats as pets or for work then wearing protective gloves, regularly washing your hands and avoiding touching anywhere near your face while working with them or their cages is highly recommended.
Diseases that are directly spread through rats not only include Rat Bite Fever but also Hantavirus, Salmonellosis and Leptospirosis. Diseases that are spread indirectly through rats are the Plague, Colorado Tick Fever and Cutaneous Leishmaniasis. All of these are considered serious diseases to humans so avoiding coming into contact with rats or anything they have come into contact with is the best option for your health.