Abuja - The parents of a 10-year-old boy who died from a bacterial infection allegedly contracted while handling his pet rat are suing Petco, the pet company which sold him the animal, according to Huffington Post.
The medical examiner found that the boy cause of death in June 2013 was streptobacillus moniliformis infection or rat bite fever after being exposed to an infected rat. Results of tests on the rat to find out whether or not it was infected have not yet been released.
10-year-old Aidan Pankey had asked for a boy rat so that his girl rat could get married. His grandmother got him one on 27 May last year. On June 11 he woke up with stomach pains and a fever; within 24 hours he was dead.
How to avoid rat bite fever
Health24 reported that rat bite fever can be contracted when bitten or scratched by a rat or by being exposed to contaminated food. Rat bite fever can be avoided by avoiding rats or rat dwellings, not handling the animals, hand washing and avoiding hand-to-mouth contact. Symptoms to look out for include chills, fever, vomiting and muscle and joint pain. These normally appear 2-10 days after exposure.
While the pet company concerned may have experienced a breakdown in supply-chain procedures leading to inadequate testing of the rats they were selling, all rats have the potential to be carriers of the bacteria.
Deaths directly attributed to rat bite fever are few as it reportedly responds well to antibiotics such as penicillin.
Risk to pregnant women
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggested that very young children under the age of five, pregnant women and vulnerable people with possibly compromised immune systems should not keep rats as pets, and that those people who do keep rats should wear protective gloves when handling them or cleaning out their cages, and also avoid touching their mouths after contact.
Rats are popular family pets, and more children are keeping them than ever as they require less space than larger pets. Parents often acquire rodent pets for their kids so that the children can learn to be responsible for feeding and cleaning out the cages of their favourite pets.
Rats can be great companions and by following simple hygiene guidelines they can be kept as pets without incident. Should your child be bitten or scratched by a pet rat (or, more importantly, a wild one) and shows any symptoms of rat bite fever a visit to your doctor or healthcare professional is recommended.
Make sure you source a pet rat from a reputable dealer who has a clean environment for the animals.
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