Prevention of Rat-bite Fever

You can lower your risk of becoming infected with RBF and other rodent diseases by avoiding direct contact with rodents, places with rodent infestations, or other areas where rodents may be present.

If you have a pet rat or other pet rodents in your home or establishment:

If you have rodents used for pet food (feeder rodents) in your home or establishment:

If you handle rats in a pet store setting:

  • Wear protective gear, such as gloves.
  • Avoid touching your mouth and face after handling rodents.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after handling rodents, their cages, bedding, urine, or droppings.

If you handle rats in a laboratory or animal research setting:

  • Wear proper protective laboratory gear, including gloves, and follow appropriate safety precautions.
  • Avoid touching your mouth and face after handling rodents.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after handling rodents, their cages, bedding, urine, or droppings.

What to do if you’re bitten or develop RBF signs and symptoms

If you are bitten or scratched, immediately clean the wound with soap and warm water. Then, contact a health care provider and tell the provider about your recent injury. If you were bitten at work, make sure to document the bite and report the incident to your supervisor. Remember, without early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, RBF can cause severe disease and death.

If you develop any of the signs and symptoms of RBF, even if you have not had a bite or scratch, immediately contact a health care provider and tell the provider about your contact with rodents.

Additional recommendations

Rodents may not be suitable to keep as pets or feeder animals in your home, classroom, or child care center. This is particularly true if your home or establishment has infants, young children, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems. People with weakened immune systems include the elderly and people with illnesses such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or cancer.

There are currently no laboratory tests that can accurately tell whether or not an animal is infected with S. moniliformis or S. minus. There is also no data to support the use of antibiotics to get rid of either S. moniliformis or S. minus in animals carrying these bacteria.

Isolated cases and outbreaks of Haverhill Fever can occur after people consume food or drinks that have been contaminated with rodent droppings or urine that contain the bacteria. It is important to remember that contaminated food and drink sources may look and smell normal. To prevent contamination, take steps to avoid rat infestations and keep domestic rodents out of kitchens and other areas where food and drink are prepared, served, or consumed.

Rats can carry the bacteria that cause RBF without showing signs of illness. In addition to RBF, contact with rodents can result in several other illnesses.