Rats are equipped with large teeth and administer painful bites when threatened. Healthy rats typically avoid people and prefer to be active when buildings are quiet. However, when cornered, they will lunge and bite to defend themselves. The saliva of some species of rats carries hazardous diseases, such as leptospirosis and Hantavirus. In rare cases, rat bite victims may contract rat-bite fever. Humans bitten by rodents are also susceptible to tetanus infections.
Rat bites may be shallow or deep. Some display single puncture wounds, while others display multiple abrasions. Bleeding often occurs. Although infection is rare, all rodent bites should be promptly and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Tetanus immunizations may be required for those who have not received them in recent years. Despite common belief, no rodent bites in North America have ever resulted in the transmission of rabies. However, a person bitten by a rat should seek a medical professional.
Signs and Symptoms
The common symptoms of a rat bite are pain, redness, swelling around the bite and, if secondary infection occurs, a weeping, pus-filled wound. Other rat bite symptoms may include those associated with bacterial infections known as streptobacillary rat bite fever and spirillary rat bite fever.
Muscle ache, vomiting, joint pain, headache, fever, and rash are common symptoms of streptobacillary rat bite fever. Symptoms usually occur 3-10 days after an infected rat bites a person.
Symptoms of spirillary rat bite fever vary, but are typically repetitive fever, an ulcer at the site of the bite, swelling, swollen lymph nodes and rash. These symptoms may occur one to three weeks after being bitten by an infected rat.
Rats and mice are very rarely infected with rabies, and their bites are not known to transmit this disease to humans.
Seek professional medical advice or attention anytime someone is bitten by an animal.