The boy was just 10-years-old and he wanted a male rat to join his female pet rat. Petco was the nearest pet store and grandma bought the rat companion. But when Aiden Pankey got the rat home, it bit him. Aidan died June 12, 2013 from a bacterial infection, allegedly from the rat.
The Pankeys have filed a lawsuit against Petco seeking an unspecified amount of money for their pain and suffering.
Aidan was rushed to the hospital in San Diego County suffering severe stomach pains after the rat bite. He was diagnosed with streptobacillus moniliformis, an infection carried by rodents.
It is also known as rat-bite fever and is actually caused by two different bacteria – the streptobacillus moniliformis and the Spirillum minus. The latter occurs mostly in Asia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The disease is also known as Haverhill fever.
The family wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. They did not give an interview to the Associated Press but reportedly want tighter controls over an animal’s health before it is sold to the unsuspecting public. The parents say it was negligent of Petco not to test the rodent before selling it.
Petco has issued a statement expressing condolences for the boy’s death.
The lawsuit filing was delayed while the CDC confirmed the rat carried the bacterial infection.
Rat-bite fever is not just limited to rats. Any rodent such as a gerbil or mouse can carry the disease which can be spread by a bite or a scratch or by drinking or eating food that is contaminated. The infection is generally passed through mouth or eye secretions or by urine.
Symptoms may include a rash, joint pain, fever, chills and swollen lymph nodes. Complications can include an inflammation of the tendons, an infection of heart valves or an abscess of the brain.
When small animals are bred for pet stores, quality control and infection may be the farthest thing from the suppliers’ mind. Not unlike puppy mills, quantity not quality is what matters to many. No doubt the alleged negligence on the part of the big store provider will be part of this lawsuit.
The treatment for rat-bite fever includes antibiotics such as penicillin.
Anyone who handles rodents for fun or in the course of their work, such as a laboratory employee, is recommended to wear protective gloves, wash their hands regularly and avoid touching their mouth after touching the rodent, according to the CDC.
The CDC reports there are only about 200 cases of rat-bite fever reported annually in the U.S. and they are rarely fatal.