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Rat-bite fever: California mom warns others after daughter's pet rat gives her potentially fatal infection

Posted at 10:19 AM, Jun 02, 2019

SAN DIEGO — The mother of a Southern California girl diagnosed with rat-bite fever is sharing her story to educate other parents about the danger.

Rat-bite fever is a potentially deadly infection spread through contact with domestic rats.

Cali, an 8-year-old girl from Menifee, California, contracted the disease when the rat’s saliva came into contact with an open wound, according to Rady Children’s Hospital officials. Cali has eczema on her fingers, which may have contributed to the situation, a doctor said.

Rat-bite fever is a bacterial disease which can cause a rash, fever and body aches.

The illness started Friday night, said Cali's mother Sabrina. By Sunday, Cali had a fever of 104.6 degrees. She lost the ability to use her hands and arms and had a full-body rash.

"Really, really scary. Really hard to watch," Sabrina said.

Cali's family bought two rats, Shell and Onyx, from a feed store about two years ago with no warning about the potential of rat-bite fever.

Doctors recommended the family get rid of their rats.

"We didn't want to do it," Sabrina said. “It’s not a fun thing to tell your kid you’ve got to get rid of your best friend."

Cali's mother had a recommendation for other parents.

"Just know that this can happen," she said. "Wash your hands."

Watch the news conference at Rady Children's Hospital: