Mother warns others after 8-year-old gets rare rat-bite-fever from pet

A California mother is warning others after her 8-year-old daughter was diagnosed with rat-bite fever from her pet rat.

KGTV reported that the girl, Cali, is thought to have gotten the illness from getting into contact with the saliva from her two pet rats, Onyx and Shell.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, humans get rat-bite fever from bites or scratches from rats with the bacteria or by contacting surfaces contaminated with the bacteria. That bacteria can then enter the body through mucous membranes or open skin. Handling rodents carrying the bacteria or contacting saliva, urine or droppings of a rodent with the bacteria can also lead to transmission of the disease. RBF is not spread from person to person.

A doctor at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, California, where Cali is being treated, told KGTV that Cali may have gotten the illness because of eczema that is on her fingers.

The girl’s mother, Sabrina, said Cali’s illness started Friday night, and by Sunday, Cali had a 104.6-degree fever. She could not use her hands and had a rash on her entire body, her mother said.

The local news station did not include the last name of the mother and daughter.

Sabrina said she was not told about RBF when she got them from a feed store two years ago, KGTV reported.

Signs and symptoms of RBF include fever, vomiting, muscle pain, headache, joint pain or swelling, and rash, according to the CDC. Symptoms start 3 to 10 days after contact with the bacteria but could surface up to three weeks later. The rash, which looks like flat areas with small red bumps, may appear within two to four days after the fever starts.

Photos of Cali’s rash appear to be the same as the CDC’s description.

KGTV said her daughter's condition is improving after she was given antibiotics and she's starting to walk again.

Doctors said owners of pet rats should wash their hands whenever handling rats or cleaning their cage.