Want an ad free reading experience?

Download PharmEasy App

Banner Image

Register to Avail the Offer

Send OTP

By continuing, you agree with our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions

Success Banner Image

Rat Bite Fever? Here’s What You Must Know!

By Nikita Banerjee +2 more

Rat fever or Leptospirosis is a rare bacterial infection caused by contact with an infected rodent’s urine, faeces or mucous secretions. The disease spreads as the person comes in connection with the secretions from the mouth, eyes, nose of the animal but in most cases, it is due to being bitten or scratched by the rodents. Household pets like cats and dogs can become carriers of the disease after being exposed to the infected animals. Humans can get this after eating food contaminated by rat faeces. Rat fever does not transmit from one infected person to another. Read on to learn more about rat fever and how you can prevent it.

Rat Fever Symptoms

Rat fever is similar to those of dengue fever in the earlier stages and this leads to misdiagnosis. Typically, the rat fever symptoms appear within three days to three weeks after exposure to the bacteria. Be watchful of the signs so you can get proper treatment.

  1. Relapsing High fever
  2. A headache
  3. Nausea and Vomiting
  4. Muscle Pain
  5. A non-itchy rash may appear a couple of days after the infection
  6. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, groin and armpit region
  7. Swollen and painful joints
  8. Open sores near the area of rodent bite

Rat bite fever usually requires a treatment because the saliva of rats carries some viruses like hantavirus or Lepto viruses. Humans bitten by rodents may also encounter tetanus infections. Care should always be taken. Under the supervision of a physician.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

Causes of Rat Fever

Two kinds of bacteria are responsible for causing rat fever. They are:

  1. Streptobacillus moniliformis: This is found mostly in North America and Europe. Most cases of rat fever occur because of these bacteria.
  2. Spirillum minus: This is found mostly in Africa and Asia. It is rarer.

How serious is Rat Bite Fever?

If the case of rat fever is misdiagnosed or is left untreated, it can lead to severe complications and can even prove to be fatal. Permanent kidney damage, liver failure, pneumonia, meningitis (painful inflammation of the membrane that covers the spinal cord and the brain), myocarditis and endocarditis (infections of the heart), sepsis (infection of the blood) are some of the complications of untreated rat-bite fever. Death is also possible if the condition is not diagnosed in time. However, if the rat fever is diagnosed in time, the prognosis is excellent.

Risk Groups

  • Those who have pet rats at home or who tend to play with rats
  • People who keep live or dead rats as feed for other house pets
  • Older adults  
  • Those who work in laboratories and carry out tests on rats
  • Those with immuno-compromised immunity  
  • Women who are either pregnant or breastfeeding

Diagnosis and Treatment of Rat Bite Fever

The diagnosis of rat bite fever requires an infection panel test which is a test of urine and blood to the immunological response to the bacteria by the body. Blood antibody tests and other tests are used depending on the kind of symptoms experienced. A bacterial culture may be done from the blood samples.

Treatment of the condition is done with antibiotics. Penicillin is the most favoured antibiotic. If someone is allergic to that then tetracycline or erythromycin are used.

Rat bite fever is very common in rainy season. Preventive measures include avoiding rodents, wash hands and face after contact and any scratches should be cleaned, and antiseptics applied.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Also Read: How to Get Rid of Ants: Top Methods from Pest Control Experts

Prevention of Rat Bite Fever

There is much you can do to prevent rat bite fever. However, most cases of the condition occur due to floods situations where it might not be possible to avoid contact with rodents. In that case, take the following measures.

  1. Wash your hands and legs or other exposed parts of your body regularly.
  2. Wash the area with soap and water if you feel you have been scratched or bitten by a rodent and seek medical attention promptly.
  3. If you are already hurt or have an injury, keep it covered and stay away from areas that might have a rodent population.
  4. Supervise children and ensure that they stay away from rat-infested areas. Make them also wash their hands and legs frequently.
  5. Try to prevent rat infestations around the area where you live. Block the holes in your home from where it might be possible for rats to come inside.
  6. Don’t allow the garbage to pile up around the residential area.
  7. Keep your food covered properly.
  8. Don’t allow your pets to ingest rats or to play with dead ones as well.
  9. Ensure there is proper sanitation as it keeps away rats.
  10. Avoid walking in floodwaters. If you cannot avoid it, reach home and take a bath immediately. You can also take preventive medication. The usual course is 100mg of Doxycycline three hours before you have to venture into floodwater. You could also take the 200mg dose, once a day for three days if you have already waded through floodwater. Take note that doxycycline has been known to be harmful to pregnant women and causes deformities in young children. They can, instead, take erythromycin.


Try to avoid places that may carry the contagious rat urine or faeces. Prevention is better than cure but if you feel you are symptomatic of rat bite fever, consult a doctor immediately to get yourself tested for the disease.  

Also Read: What Causes Roaches: An Insight into Infestation Sources and Prevention

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

Links and product recommendations in the information provided here are advertisements of third-party products available on the website. PharmEasy does not make any representation on the accuracy or suitability of such products/services. Advertisements do not influence the editorial decisions or content. The information in this blog is subject to change without notice. The authors and administrators reserve the right to modify, add, or remove content without notification. It is your responsibility to review this disclaimer regularly for any changes.

You may also like

Comments are closed.