Rat-Bite Fever: Symptoms, Treatments, And Care

Rat-Bite Fever: Symptoms, Treatments, And Care

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Rat-bite fever does not eternally occur after an attack by one of these animals. But, in all cases, it is important to consult a doctor, even if the wound seems irrelevant.

The rat-bite fever is also recognized as streptobacillary fever or fever spirally. As the name implies, it is caused by the bite of an infected rat, but it can also be caused by mice, squirrels, weasels, cats, or any animal that feeds on a sick rat.

These animals attack when they feel trapped or pressured. These kinds of accidents have become more popular, as the number of rodents has increased due to climate change. In 10 cases, 1 develops a rat-bite fever.

What does a rat-bite look like?

The rat bite looks like a  small, puncture wound. Sometimes what is seen is a series of small bites. Usually, they are not serious, but it is common for them to cause bleeding and painful inflammation.

The wound caused by one of these bites can also become infected. In that case, you may see some pus in the area. The most serious complication is rat-bite fever, but it does not appear immediately.

The usual thing is that the wound heals and later the temperature rise appears. This takes place in a period ranging from 1 to 20 days after the bite. Symptoms appear abruptly and become very severe.

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How do you know if you have a rat-bite fever?

Rat-bite fever can be caused by two microorganisms. One of them is the bacterium  S.moniliformis. The other is S. minus. In the first case, we speak of streptobacillary fever, and in the second, spirillary fever.

In both cases, some symptoms are common: fever, chills, and headache. There are also particular signs of each one. In the case of streptobacillary fever, in addition to those already mentioned, the following appears:

  • Red rash, especially on the arms and legs.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Arthritis, usually concentrated in the knee.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Complications of rat-bite fever include serious health problems, such as pneumonia, meningitis, abscesses, and inflammation of the heart. In spirillary fever, on the other hand, these symptoms appear:

  • Ulceration at the site of the bite. Red spots from around it.
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes.
  • Skin rash with red, purple, or brown patches.

Complications include pneumonia, hepatitis, meningitis, and heart infection. Another modality is what is known as Haverhill fever. In that case, there is also vomiting and a sore throat.

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What is the treatment for rat-bite fever?

The indicated thing is that, after the bite, wash the affected area with warm water and soap as quickly as possible. You have to dry yourself with a clean towel and apply an antibiotic ointment. Then cover the wound with a sterile bandage.

The doctor should always be consulted, even if the wound appears to be minor or barely noticeable. The professional is likely to order a tetanus shot or to prescribe antibiotics to anticipate infection.

In these cases, follow-up should be done, and be attentive to the appearance of any of the symptoms of rat-bite fever. If this occurs, antibiotics will be prescribed for a period of 7 to 10 days. If the case is severe, they will be administered intravenously.

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What complications are there without treatment?

If proper and timely treatment is not given, various complications are possible. Untreated rat-bite fever can cause very serious problems. Some of them are deadly, like the following:

  • Cardiac: myocarditis, endocarditis, and pericarditis.
  • Circulatory: systemic vasculitis and polyarteritis nodosa.
  • Others: pneumonia, hepatitis, nephritis, meningitis, and focal abscesses.


Typically, a person with a rat-bite fever will recover after a week of taking prescribed antibiotics. In some cases, the fever can return. Sometimes this happens for weeks or months but goes away over time.

This disease cannot be spread from person to person. The greatest danger is that the prescribed approach is not followed properly or is not carried out completely. In those cases, it can lead to death.

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Rat-bite fever is to watch out for

People affected by rat-bite fever must adhere to treatment to the letter. Interrupting it or not advancing it as it should lead to it becoming ineffective. This is dangerous and even deadly.

Many people have chosen to keep rats as pets. No matter how much affection you have for them, whenever there is a bite, the recommendations already mentioned should be followed. In all cases, it is essential to consult with the doctor and follow the protocols established by the health authorities.

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