Rat Bite Fever

As some of you may be aware, there has been a recent surge in discussion surrounding Rat Bite Fever (RBF). RBF has been and continues to be a relatively rare infection. RBF has mostly been attributed to wild rats and can even be transferred via other animals in certain circumstances. It has not been standard practice to test for RBF in domestic rats, as testing has not been readily available to breeders and is still very cost prohibitive.

As rat bite fever is currently not a reportable illness to the CDC, it is not accurately tracked.  It is impossible to say with any certainty if cases are on the rise or staying the same. This is not an epidemic or spontaneous increase in infection or carriers, it is simply a sudden public awareness of the prevalence of Streptobacillus moniliformis (S. moniliformis), the bacteria that causes RBF.

It stands to reason that it has existed with some frequency since the beginning of rat domestication, we are only now focusing on it as people are testing. Mice, guinea pigs, and gerbils are also possible vectors for S. moniliformis, so this is not a bacteria that is isolated to rats.

According to the CDC, there is no accurate testing for possible carrier animals. With both false negatives and false positives being common, testing is too uncertain to rely on.  Because of this, I will not be testing at this time, though I may test in the future when more information is available. I will operate under the assumption that some or all of my rats may carry the bacteria, as I always have. If you do not feel comfortable adopting from me at this time, I completely understand and respect your decision.

The most important thing after any animal bite (or any injury that breaks the skin) is proper wound care. If you are bitten or scratched by any animal, it is important to immediately clean the injury thoroughly, then keep it clean and covered. Watch for signs of infection (such as redness, swelling, joint pain, and/or fever) and consult with your doctor if you are concerned.

Rats, like other pets, can be a vector for several diseases, RBF being one of them. For quite some time I have required adopters to read and sign a waiver that outlines several of these. I will now be requiring acknowledgment of this waiver at the beginning of the adoption process as full up-front disclosure.

I will of course be keeping an eye on the situation, and will make any changes I feel are necessary both ethically and practically, so there may be more changes to come in the future.

CDC Page on Rat Bite Fever