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Infected rat: 10-year-old dies from bacterial infection, Petco sued by family

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An infected rat has led to a 10-year-old boy dying from a serious bacterial infection. Now, a grieving couple from San Diego is suing Petco after saying their son contracted the fatal disease from his pet rat. ABC News reports this Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, that the cause of death has been confirmed this week as streptobacillus moniliformis infection, known to the public as rat-bite fever.

According to Attorney John Gomez, the infected rat is at the center of the family’s lawsuit against Petco. His firm is formally suing Petco for the Pankey family from the San Diego County following the tragedy last year. An undisclosed amount of money is being demanded by the parents for the suffering that the Pankey’s suffered after their 10-year-old boy, Aidan, died back in June 12, 2013.

Aidan was said to have been feeling ill for a few days when one morning he woke up with extreme stomach pains. He was immediately rushed to a local hospital, but soon died from the rat-bite fever sickness. According to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office, the official cause of death in the boy’s death has been confirmed as streptobacillus moniliformis infection after being first exposed to his infected pet rat.

Petco has since provided a statement of apology to the grieving family over the tainted animal and the pain it has caused the family.

"We are deeply saddened by the Pankey family's tragic loss," Petco said in a statement. "The health and safety of people and pets is always a top priority, and we take the family's concerns very seriously."

As cited in the press release, the male rat was first bought for 10-year-old Aidan as a pet by the boy’s maternal grandmother. He already had a female pet rat, and decided to name the new animal Alex as a mate for the creature. The young boy was happy to take the unknown-to-him infected rat home in late May. By June 11 of the same year, a massive fever and severe stomach pains spurred his parents to rush him to a medical center. They could see he had trouble standing, had grown utterly pale, and looked close to death, said the lawsuit.

"He was a bright, energetic, friendly, happy kid who actually had a prior rat, who was a female, and he had this idea in his young head of having his female rat get married," Gomez announced in his statement suing Petco.

The lawsuit was waiting for formal results from the federal Centers for Disease Control to confirm that the tested infected rat was indeed carrying the fatal disease. The agency only made the results clear this Tuesday morning in this tragic case.

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