Published February 20, 2012
An Australian woman who kissed and cuddled her pet rodents was admitted to the intensive care unit with rat bite fever.
An article by South Australian Pathology employees, in Monday's Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), said the 26-year-old office worker spent 17 days in the Royal Adelaide Hospital last year after she contracted the potentially deadly condition, more properly known as streptobacillus moniliformis infection.
Co-author of the article and infectious diseases physician Dr. Narin Bak said the woman was admitted to the intensive care unit with severe headache and fever and developed severe pneumonitis and meningitis (inflammation of the lungs and brain).
"This condition was more prevalent in the past and is associated with slums and poor living conditions," Bak said.
The woman, who has since fully recovered, was not bitten, but said she had liked to kiss and cuddle her two pets.
"As this case demonstrates, a bite is not necessary for infection. Close contact with rodents may be sufficient," the MJA report said.
The Australian Veterinary Association and health officials said good hygiene, particularly hand washing, is important after contact with pets.