Rat-bite fever is a rare disease that comes from a rodent’s urine or mucous secretions. It is caused by bacteria, which come from two specific types. It is an acute, febrile illness that can affect humans easily. It has many other names that are listed below:

  • Streptobacillary fever
  • Streptobacillosis
  • Spirially fever
  • Bogger
  • Epidemic arthritic erythema

This disease is not to be confused with similarly-named rat fever or with leptospirosis, since these are different diseases altogether. Most humans get infected by the infected animal’s bite, and most of the recorded cases come from Japan. However, there are other cases reported from the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia due to some specific strains residing there.

The disease can also spread through food and water that is contaminated with rat feces and urine and can infect other animals such as weasels, gerbils, squirrels, house cats, and house dogs. Currently, there is no form of vaccine for this kind of disease.

The easiest way for preventing the spread of this disease is to avoid areas where infected rodents may live, and proper sanitation of one’s self by washing hands and face after coming in contact. If a person has been scratched by rodents, the scratches must be cleaned and should be applied with antiseptics.

Furthermore, people should avoid handling rodents, dead or alive, to avoid spreading the illness to others. Pets are also susceptible to transmitting the disease via contact, so it is advised to keep them out of the rodent’s reach, and for them not to eat the rodents.


There are currently two types of rat-bite fever strains, which most of their symptoms are shared with both strains. Both are listed below:

  • Spirillary strain, which is the common strain in Africa
  • Streptobacillosis strain, which is the common strain in the United States



Symptoms are listed below:

  • Rat-bite symptoms for both strains which are visually seen, such as inflammation around the open sore (skin openings from ulcers), red or purple rashes around the sore
  • Streptobacillosis symptoms are chills, fever, vomiting, headaches, muscle aches, swollen joints, back pains, skin irritation or ulcers in the hands or feet and slow healing of wounds
  • Spirillary symptoms are swollen or inflamed lymph nodes around the neck, groin and underarm, fever, rashes on the hands and feet, and rashes over the body


For this, the following steps are taken in order to combat the illness:

  • Blood antibody tests
  • Blood or joint fluid tests
  • Detecting bacteria in the blood, joint fluid, and lymph nodes
  • For Spirillary diagnosis, direct visualization or collecting culture of spirilla from blood smears or from tissue from lesion or lymph nodes



The usual treatment for this illness is in the form of antibiotics. Both strains of the disease react to penicillin, and the use of antihistamines are used for allergies that emerge due to the illness’ reaction to penicillin.

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