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Rat-bite fever in California

10 year old San Diego boy killed by rat-bite fever
10 year old San Diego boy killed by rat-bite fever
Pankey family/AP

Petco is being sued by a family in San Diego that lost their 10 year old son last year after contracting rat-bite fever from a pet bought at their store. The boy Aidan Pankey’s grandmother bought him a male rat from Petco because he wanted a friend for his female rat. The rat went home with Aidan on May 27, 2013 and on June 11, 2013 he was rushed to the hospital with a fever and in severe pain. Unfortunately Aidan passed away just hours later on June 12, 2013 from streptobacillus moniliformis, an infection also known as rat-bite fever.
The lawsuit was filed February 24, 2014, now that testing has been concluded and it has been confirmed that the rat Aidan received was infected. According to the lawsuit Petco did not test properly and should have known about the rat’s health. This was negligent on their part and has caused the boy’s parents emotional and economic hardship. The family attorney John Gomez has said that the Pankey family wants to raise awareness and stop this from happening again. Petco has expressed its condolences to the family and has stated that they are looking into the claims.
The CDC has shared that people can contract rat-bite fever in multiple ways. Infection can be spread through bites and scratches from an infected rodent which includes; rats, gerbils and mice. It can also be spread without a scratch or bite, but just by handling a diseased animal. It is not spread from person to person, only rodent to person or through contaminated food or drink. The CDC has also gone on record to say that rat-bite fever is rarely fatal and is very treatable with antibiotics. People who work with rats or live in rat infected buildings are at a high risk of infection and the CDC recommends that people who handle rats wear gloves and wash their hands often.
As of 2004 there have only been around 200 cases of rat-bite fever documented in the United States. Will this number increase with the rising popularity of rats as pets? Awareness and cleanliness is imperative and all precautions should be taken when it comes to children especially.