Rat fever or Leptospirosis is a rare bacterial infection caused by the contact with an infected rodent’s urine, feces 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 the carriers of the disease after being exposed to the infected animals. Humans can get this after eating food contaminated by rat feces. 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.
- Relapsing High fever
- A headache
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Muscle Pain
- A non-itchy rash may appear a couple of days after the infection
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, groin and armpit region
- Swollen and painful joints
- Open sores near the area of rodent bite
Causes of Rat Fever
Two kinds of bacteria are responsible for causing rat fever. They are:
- Streptobacillus moniliformis: This is found mostly in North America and Europe. Most cases of rat fever occur because of these bacteria.
- 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.
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 favored antibiotic. If someone is allergic to that then tetracycline or erythromycin are used.
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 situation where it might not be possible to avoid contact with rodents. In that case, take the following measures.
- Wash your hands and legs or other exposed parts of your body regularly.
- Wash the area with soap and water if you feel you have been scratched or bitten by a rodent and seek medical attention promptly.
- If you are already hurt or have an injury, keep it covered and stay away from areas that might have a rodent population.
- Supervise children and ensure that they stay away from rat-infested areas. Make them also wash their hands and legs frequently.
- 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.
- Don’t allow the garbage to pile up around the residential area.
- Keep your food covered properly.
- Don’t allow your pets to ingest rats or to play with dead ones as well.
- Ensure there is proper sanitation as it keeps away rats.
- Avoid walking in flood waters. 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 in flood water. You could also take the 200mg dose, once a day for three days if you have already waded through flood water. 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 feces. 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.