Should I worry if a rat bites me? First, you should contact your doctor if you were bit by a rat. Even if the rat bite doesn’t look serious, you should know that rats can carry more than 35 diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Your doctor may want to keep you under observation, not because of rabies but because of the possibility of infection from the rat bite.
Rats and mice can carry the rabies virus in their bodies. Nevertheless, rats have not been shown to be infected with rabies in wild populations. Therefore, you shouldn’t really worry about rabies transmission from a rat bite. Even though about 20,000 people are bitten by rats each year in the United States, the U.S. Public Health Service doesn’t recommend rabies vaccine shots for people with a rat bite.
About 50 percent of the reported rat bite cases in the U.S. were children. As rats became popular pets and laboratory animals, the demographics of rat bite victims has broadened to laboratory technicians, pet store employees, and children.
We don’t know for sure why rats don’t spread rabies. One theory is that rats may not survive the attack of a rabid predator. As rats are food for carnivores, they wouldn’t be able to transmit rabies to humans. According to the CDC, the most common wild reservoirs of rabies are skunks, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, bats and woodchucks (groundhogs).
Can rats be infected with rabies?
Although rats can be infected with rabies, the chance of it happening is exceptionally low. Rats rarely carry rabies. But an exceptionally low chance doesn’t mean no chance at all. So, your concerns about rats carrying rabies shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
Do rats carry rabies?
Rats are unlikely to carry rabies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rats, mice and other rodents are almost never infected with rabies. And rats have not been known to transmit rabies to humans.
How to figure out if rabies is a concern after a rat bite?
For some animal species like cats and dogs, it’s well defined. If the biter is still alive and normal ten days after the bite, the animal could not have been shedding rabies virus when the bite occured. Rules are less clear for other species, and those are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Still, given the minor risk of rabies in rats and the fact that rats are not a reservoir species, a quarantine period would probably be reasonable in a case like this. However, figuring out why the rat was acting “oddly” and if there is any evidence of a neurological disease component is essential. If the rat has neurological abnormalities, immediate euthanasia and rabies testing would probably be recommended.
Is rabies a concern after a rat bite?
Rabies is always a concern with a rat bit, but rat bite fever is much more likely.
If rats don’t carry rabies, what diseases do they spread?
Rats may not carry rabies, but they spread many other diseases.
Rats can give people hantaviruses, some of which can cause a deadly disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. People get infected with hantaviruses when rat droppings or urine are stirred up into the air. Touching rat nesting materials, droppings or urine that contain hantavirus can also get you infected.
The symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome are dizziness, abdominal problems, fatigue, chills, fever, and muscle pain, mostly in large muscle groups.
What is rat bite fever?
Antibiotics can readily cure rat bite fever. But untreated infections can be fatal with a mortality rate of about 13 percent. Rat bite fever is acquired primarily from rats, mice and other rodents.
In the past, rat bite fever was mostly a hazard of exposure to wild rats or laboratory rodents. However, in reality, pet shop employees, veterinary staff, and pet owners may be at increased risk with the growing popularity of rodent pets.
Clinical cases of rat bite fever can be a diagnostic challenge because the initial symptoms are nonspecific. Unfortunately, there are few good, widely available diagnostic tests available today.
Outbreaks in rat colonies can result in significant economic losses, in addition to the zoonotic risks (the risk of an infectious disease to jump from animal to human) to personnel. Rare clinical cases or outbreaks have also been reported in other species of birds and mammals.
Only about 200 cases of rat bite fever cases have been reported in America. Some believe that the real number of rat bite fever cases is much higher. The youngest reported rat bit fever victim was a two-month-old infant, and the oldest an 87-year old male. The risk of infection after a rat bite is about 10 percent. The mortality rate of untreated rat bite fever is about 13 percent.
How to reduce the risk of human infection from rats?
All rats can carry viruses and bacteria that cause infections in humans. Rat infections that can transmit to people include rat bite fever and a type of meningitis caused by the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), hantavirus, and leptospirosis. Although rare, these infections may have serious consequences and can cause death.
All rats should be presumed to be carrying these diseases even if they look healthy and have no signs of illness.
How are rats passing infections to people?
Rats can spread diseases to people in the following ways:
- Rat bite
- Breathing in rat urine, droppings, dust from nests, or dander
- Touching rat urine, feces or nesting materials
Can rats cause meningitis?
Rats can carry the Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), which causes a type of meningitis. The primary host is the common house mouse, but other rodents, such as hamsters, can become infected by wild mice. The infection might occur in the home environment, at the breeder, or pet store.
The virus is found in the droppings, urine, and saliva of infected rats. Rats carry the virus and shed it for their entire lives without showing any sign of the disease. Humans become infected with LCMV after exposure to nesting materials or fresh rat droppings, urine, or saliva.
Transmission of the disease can occur when these infectious materials are directly introduced into the mouth, eyes, nose, broken skin, or through the bite of an infected rat. People are more likely to contract LCMV from house mice, but infections from pet rats have also been reported.
A mild flu-like illness or infection without symptoms is standard, with an incubation period of 6 – 13 days. However, the infection may present as meningitis, meningoencephalitis, or encephalitis. In addition, infection in pregnancy has been associated with disease in the newborn.
Rats are frequently a neighborhood problem. They favor areas with many hiding places. If there is exterior clutter, high grass or weeds, decorative ground cover, compost files, firewood stacks, shed, trash can, it provides easy cover for movement. If there are ready food sources, your home will become the feeding stations such as your bird feeder, garbage cans without tight lids, and feces of cats or dogs (unpleasant, but it makes a good case for using the pooper scooper). Unfortunately, if you are feeding any wildlife such as birds, squirrels, or chipmunks, you become a target for rats. You may have to consider curtailing this activity for a while. If you choose not to, control may be much slower. If you do have exterior activities, it is much better to deal with them outside than inside. These are very smart and agile critters. Exterior control measures involve treating holes that are their burrows, placing bait stations and traps. A trained professional can identify their holes and harborage areas.
Rats inside the house
This urban rodent produces the most fear of pests we deal with. Their size and fearsome depiction in the media make them a most unwelcome invader. If a rat is inside your home, you will know about it. The noise will be loud in walls or in dropped ceilings. Their droppings are large and oblong. There may be visible puddles of urine. They can chew holes in plastic or cardboard containers. They can move a piece of fruit or package of food across a table, counter, or floor. They can make a big mess in a short period of time. Your pets may spend protracted periods starring at an appliance or counter, staking out their prey. Rats will feed on dog/cat food, cat feces, and of course, any food left out. Getting rid of rats inside will involve using snap traps or glue boards, exterior baiting at possible entry points from the outside. It will be very important to remove any possible food sources. Keep cat or dog food up off the floor at night. Close open food inside of hard plastic containers, and don’t leave out fruit, candy, or nuts. Where we place materials is very important, and it is critical that you not disturb the location where they are placed. Rats are smart, so they don’t trust new things in their environment until it has been there for a while and seems to be harmless.