(North Central Washington) Rat Bite Fever has been confirmed in a few Chelan and Douglas County residents and possibly in a Grant County resident who may have been exposed here. Rat bite fever is a bacterial disease carried by rats and is part of the normal flora of their mouth and nose. Other animals such as mice, gerbils, ferrets, squirrels, cats, especially feral cats and dogs can get infected, and may or may not get sick with rat bite fever, but they may also spread it.
Prevention activities include eliminating contact with rodents. There is no known person to person transmission, and it is more commonly seen in children. A bite, scratch, droppings or urine from an infected rodent can transmit the disease. Any food items potentially contaminated by rodents or their droppings should be thrown away. Contaminated water sources and unpasteurized milk have also been considered possible health risks for rat bite fever.
Illness develops within 3 weeks of the exposure. Initial symptoms include fever, muscle aches, joint pain, headache, nausea, and vomiting and many patients develop a rash on their hands and feet 1 to 5 days after having a fever. Unlike influenza there is no cough associated with the illness and it is easily treated with antibiotics.
If you have had contact with rodents or other animals that have contact with rodents, and you have symptoms of the illness, see your medical provider. Health Districts in Chelan, Douglas and Grant Counties have made the health care community aware of this illness and asked them to monitor clients for more suspect cases of rat bite fever, a relatively rare disease.
Protecting your food by placing items in sealed plastic containers and trapping rodents inside and out will help eliminate the threat of this disease. Wear protective gloves when trapping or handling rodents or cleaning rodent cages. Avoid touching your mouth with your hands and wash your hands often. Steel wool is an excellent plug for those small places that allow rodents to enter your home.
More information on prevention steps you can take to help reduce exposure to this disease is available on the CDC website listed below.
■ For additional information see CDC: www.cdc.gov/rat-bite-fever/prevention/