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Rat bite fever is an acute, rare disease caused primarily by the bacterium Streptobacillus moniliformis. In Asia, another bacterium Spirillum minus causes spirillary rat bite fever. It is also calle Streptobacillary fever; Streptobacillosis; Haverhill fever; Epidemic arthritic erythema; Spirillary fever; Sodoku. It is most commonly caused by rat bites. It can also be transmitted throughout food or water that is contaminated with rat feces or urine. The disease is most often seen in Asia, Europe, North America. Higher risk groups include laboratory personnel, pet shop employees and veterinarians, as well as people who are exposed to wild rats.
Symptoms of the streptobacillary form include recurrent fever, rash, and arthralgias. The spirillary form causes relapsing fever, rash, and regional lymphadenitis. Symptoms usually occur 3-10 days after exposure to an infected rodent, but can be delayed as long as 3 weeks for spirillary form. Rat-bite fever may cause complications like infection of the brain or soft tissue, infection of the heart valves, inflammation of the parotid glands, the tendons and the heart lining. Rat-bite fever is treated with antibiotics (penicillin or tetracyclines for 7-14 days). Alternative drugs include ampicillin, cefuroxime, and cefotaxime.