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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rats, rats, rats!

LEPTOSPIROSIS is not the only disease you can get from rats. Here are some other diseases we can also get from our rodent friends.

1. Bubonic plague

You can get bubonic plague – a disease characterised by swollen, painful lymph glands – if bitten by a rodent flea that carries a bacterium called Yersinia pestis. While modern antibiotics are effective against it, if you do not get it treated promptly, it can still cause illness and death.

2. Murine typhus

You can also get murine typhus, an illness caused by a bacterium called Rickettsia typhi, if you are bitten by an infected rodent flea or mite. According to the second home edition of the Merck Manual of Medical Information, common symptoms include fever, severe headache, a characteristic skin rash and a general feeling of illness (malaise). Modern antibiotics are also effective against this disease. However, if left untreated or treated too late, death can occur.

3. Rat-bite fever

As it name suggests, rat-bite fever is an acute illness which usually develops after having been bitten or scratched by an infected rat or other rodents (such as mice and gerbils). In Asia, it is usually caused by the bacterium Spirillum minus. According to the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, common symptoms include fever, ulceration at the rate-bite wound, swollen lymph nodes near the wound, and a distinct rash. This occurs following partial healing of the wound.

4. Salmonellosis

Rodents can also carry Salmonella, a group of bacteria that can cause diarrhoeal illness in humans, in their faeces. We can be infected if we eat foods that are contaminated with the bacteria.

Although many recover without treatment, this infection can be life-threatening, especially for infants and young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. There is still no vaccine for this disease, but antibiotics can be prescribed to treat it. It can be prevented by washing your hands properly before preparing food or eating.

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