It is understandable if you were to think that a disease called “rat-bite fever” was too on-the-nose and blunt to be a real medical condition. However, it most certainly is a real condition, and a fatal one if untreated. Rat-bite fever doesn’t even require that a person be bit by an infected rat. A scratch from an infected rat, merely being around the infected rat, or having the bacteria enter a person’s food or water can cause rat-bite fever. It is uncommon for the disease to cause death, but it has been known to happen.
Sadly, we bring this disease to your attention because just such a fatal incident involving rat-bite disease occurred last year, and it appears that a major pet supply company could be at fault for the circumstances surrounding the incident.
A 10-year-old boy, who was given a pet rat by his grandmother, died from rat-bite fever. The grandmother bought the rat from Petco and in about two weeks after receiving the rat, the boy was infected and died from the disease. The boy’s family is now suing Petco after lab tests by the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that the rat did have the bacteria linked with rat-bite fever.
The family claims that Petco should have known that the rat was unsafe, even though the bacteria doesn’t cause the rat to present noticeable symptoms. The family believes Petco should have better testing procedures in place, and they hope their lawsuit helps change the testing culture of Petco.
Source: Chicago Sun-Times, “10-year-old dies from rat-bite fever; family sues Petco,” Julie Watson, AP, Feb. 26, 2014