Australian woman ends up in intensive care after kissing her pet rat

MELBOURNE, Australia – It took over a year to be made public, but a case study about a woman who ended up in intensive care after kissing her pet rat is making headlines all over Australia since details were published in the latest issue of the Medical Journal of Australia.

In what the Herald Sun describes as 'a bad fairytail,' a 26-year-old office worker from the South Australian state capital Adelaide spent 17 days in the hospital last year, after contracting the potentially fatal streptobacillus moniliformis infection, also known as 'rat bite fever'.

The details were included in an article entitled 'Meningitis and pneumonitis caused by pet rodents,' which described how the woman arrived in the hospital after three days of headaches, nausea, vomiting, fever, photophobia and neck stiffness. She was transferred to the intensive care unit on day two.

The woman was not bitten, but said she had liked to kiss and cuddle her two pet rats.

The case study has inspired a host of tabloid headlines, like Sky News' 'woman caught fever from love rat,'but it's also come with a more serious public health message.

"This condition was more prevalent in the past and is associated with slums and poor living conditions," Adelaide Now quotes the co-author of the article, infectious diseases physician, Narin Ba, as saying.

"Victims in recent years have included laboratory workers, pet shop employees, and increasingly, owners of pet rats," Dr. Ba reportedly said, adding:  "This case demonstrates a bite is not necessary for infection. Close contact with rodents may be sufficient."

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The studies co-authors end with a warning that as the number of people keeping rats as pets increases, so too will the number of cases of streptobacillus moniliformi.

And, as a quick internet search suggest, kissing pet rats is seemingly not that uncommon a practice . . .

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