Overview of Rat Bites: How They Occur and the Most Common Consequences

As a general rule, rats avoid interaction with humans. Nocturnal animals, they are most active during the night and sleep or tuck themselves away in their nests during sunlight hours. Thus, the amount of direct contact between humans and rats tends to be minimal. As a species, rats are also inclined to retreat rather than fight. With these points made, there are situations in which rats bite humans. Because a rat bite is a possibility, you are wise to have a basic understanding of facts associated with this type of encounter or injury.

The Aftermath of a Rat Bite

Rat bites take different forms. Rat bites have been known to make shallow and deep wounds. In some cases, a rat bite presents as a single puncture wound. In other cases, a rat bite appears like multiple abrasions. Bleeding occurs in the majority of rat bite cases.

Directly after a rat bite, the wound or wounds must be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly. This is the best frontline defense of contracting a disease from a rat bite. Because an array of variabilities exists in regard to the ramifications of a rat bite, when this type of incident occurs, the person bitten should be taken to a doctor.

Rat Bites and Rabies

Rumors abound in the United States contending that people bit by rats contracted rabies. The reality is that as of mid-2019 there has never been a diagnosed case of rabies coming from a rat bite. In fact, there is no evidence that a rodent bite of any type in the United States has resulted in the transmission of rabies to a human being. As will be discussed more fully in a moment, the fact that no one appears to have contracted rabies from a rat in the U.S.A. doesn’t mean that potential health issues do not arise from rat bites.

Rat Bite Fever

Rat bite fever is a colloquial term covering bacterial infections that can be contracted by a human when bit by a rat. A number of other names are assigned to rat bite fever. These include:

  • Streptobacillary fever
  • Streptobacillus
  • Spirillary fever
  • Bogger
  • Epidemic arthritic erythema

Rat-bite fever is caused by one or another of two bacteria:

  • Spirillosis
  • Strephtobacilliosis

In the United States, Streptobacillus bacteria is the most common cause of rat bite fever in the country. With that said, rat bite fever is not particularly commonplace in the U.S.A., but a person can be infected with this bacteria and develop this condition.

Symptoms of Rat Bite Fever

Many of the symptoms associated with rat bite fever are similar between the two types of bacteria most responsible for infecting people in the United States. The symptoms typically begin to be exhibited between two and 10 days after a person sustains a rat bite. The rat bite fever symptoms include:

  • Fever (usually a high-temperature fever)
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Painful joints
  • Rash radiating from the bite site

Treatment of Rat Bite Fever

Unfortunately, doctors fairly regular misdiagnose rat bite fever. They conclude that a patient is suffering from something else. Thus, an incorrect course of treatment initially is pursued, which results in the illness worsening.

The primary treatment for rat bite fever is the use of antibiotics. A trio of antibiotics have been proven consistently effective at treating rat-bite fever:

  • Penicillin
  • Erythromycin
  • Tetracyclines
  • Doxycycline

Many cases of rat bite fever resolve on their own over time.

Most Susceptible Segment of the Population

Children under the age of 12 are the most common cohort of people who are bitten by rats. There are two reasons why this is the case. First, rats are relatively common pets, particularly among children in this age category.

Second, rats are more common in more crowded quadrants of a community that has properties in disrepair. As a result, children in these areas are most susceptible to being bitten by rats.

In addition to younger children, other segments of the population most susceptible to rat-bite fever are:

  • Pregnant women
  • People with suppressed immune systems
  • Individuals over the age of 65

Rat Bite Fatalities

About 13% of rat fever cases result in death. Fatalities are most often the result of an infection spreading to certain organs within a person’s body, specifically:

  • The lining of the heart
  • Covering of spinal cord
  • Covering of brain
  • Lungs

Protection Against Rat-Bourne Disease

The best course of action to protect against rat-borne disease is to protect against an infestation in the first instance. If that proves not possible engaging the services of a professional is advised as the safest most effective means of addressing a rat issue in a home or business.

Keep in mind that rat bites are not the only way in which these rodents spread disease. Rat droppings and urine can also contain dangerous biohazards. Engaging an experienced rat droppings cleanup service is advisable to ensure that this type of biohazard is thoroughly and safely eliminated.

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