This article is from the WSSF 2012 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Trista, IN, e-mail
QHello my name is Trista, and I live in southern Indiana. My son was just diagnosed with rat bite fever. He was very sick and admitted to Riley’s Children’s Hospital. The disease is so rare that the doctors had a hard time diagnosing him. I purchased these pet rats from a local pet store. What should I do? I have had to take off from work for 12 weeks to try and figure out what the next step is. The company I purchased them from is very reluctant and will not help in any way, shape, or form.
AWhile rat bite fever (RBF) is very uncommon, it is a known risk from getting rats from pet stores. I am sorry that your son was sick. We typically don’t have the two bacteria associated with this disease (Strep. moniliformis or Spirillum minus) in research colonies; however, these bacteria are considered commensals in the rat respiratory tract. Rats with Mycoplasma sp. or CAR bacillis infections are at greater risk of carrying the bacteria associated with RBF. There is an older question where I did an in depth explanation of this disease previously [see the article “Rat Bite Fever” www.afrma.org/med_ratbitefever.htm in the WSSF2009 issue, Ed.]. Most pet stores sell rats as-is with no guarantees that their animals are free of the zoonotic diseases. Carmen Jane Booth, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Cheryl Love, Facebook
QCan someone please tell me where I can get good medical proof that fancy rats do not carry any diseases that are transmittable to humans? I have been in a long argument with many people who think they carry rabies, plague, etc. As a breeder, I know this is untrue, as well as being an ex animal health tech, but I can’t seem to find any great articles on the subject.
AThe following articles from Carmen Jane Booth, D.V.M., Ph.D., on the AFRMA web site tell more about some of the problems a person may encounter:
And for more on zoonotic diseases see: https://web.archive.org/web/20140829154356/http://www.research.ucsb.edu/compliance/animal-subjects/veterinary-care/zoonotic-diseases-continued/.
While a person can get a number of diseases from many species of animals, it is unlikely, though not impossible, to get something from pet rats. There have been very few incidents of diseases that have been known to have come from domestic pet rats. There is an article “Reducing the risk of human infection from pet rodents” written for those in the U.K. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140714084352/http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317138246716. In this article it lists Leptospirosis sp., Hantavirus, Rat Bite Fever from Streptobacillus moniliformis, and LCMV (Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus) as being the most common diseases people can get from pet rats. Good hygiene is important when handling animals of any kind. And don’t let pet rats (or mice) be exposed to wild rats (or mice) at any time. Karen Robbins