While rats and mice can harbor the rabies virus, evidence of rabies infection in wild populations remains elusive. The U.S. Public Health Service has a clear policy on rat bites. They do not prescribe rabies vaccinations for these incidents. Every year in the U.S., about 50,000 individuals experience such bites.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided some insights on small rodents and lagomorphs. We seldom find species like squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rats, mice, rabbits, and hares infected with rabies. Moreover, we have no records of these animals transmitting rabies to humans.
The reason wild rats rarely contract rabies remains unknown. One theory explains the low incidence of rabies in small animals. Their small size makes survival against a rabid predator like a fox unlikely. Consequently, they seldom get the chance to pass on rabies.
Conversely, woodchucks (ground hogs) are a rodent species occasionally infected with rabies, capable of transmission through a bite.
Rats Spread Diseases, Excluding Rabies
Rats have a connection with several diseases affecting humans and potentially pets. Contact typically transmits most of these diseases. It happens when humans or pets come into contact with an infected rat’s urine, feces, or saliva. Rat-bite fever, a rare bacterial disease, is one such example associated with a rat bite.
Other Animals May Transmit Rabies
While rabies is a fatal disease, its occurrence is rare. Unvaccinated pets are susceptible to rabies if they come into contact with bodily fluids from a rabid animal.
A rat bite doesn’t raise rabies-related concerns. However, in the Northeast region, there is a different scenario. Here, bites from a skunk, bat, raccoon, woodchuck, coyote, or fox could indeed cause worry.
Exploring Rats and Rabies
Rats are some of the most prevalent pests in Florida and globally. Their unhygienic nature poses a risk if your pet encounters one. Despite their small stature, rats have sharp teeth, robust jaws, and claws that can inflict deep scratches.
What should you do if a rat bites you or your pet? Is there a risk that the rat could be rabid? The first advice is not to panic.
Steps to Take if a Rat Bites Your Pet
The initial response should be to describe the incident to a veterinarian. After a rat bite, your vet may have specific recommendations. They may not suggest any special treatment but might express interest in monitoring your pet. This monitoring is mainly due to the risk of infection from the bite, not from rabies.
Can Rats Transmit Rabies?
Typically, rats and mice are too small to survive long enough to exhibit rabies symptoms. Although they can harbor the virus causing rabies, no evidence of rabid wild rats exists.
Every year, rats bite over 50,000 people, but none of them require rabies vaccinations. Their small stature makes survival unlikely if attacked by a rabid animal. However, if bitten by a groundhog, it may be prudent to consider a rabies vaccination.
Recognizing the Signs of Rabies
Rabies in animals typically manifests in two ways: Aggression or paralysis. Rabid animals may become hostile or, conversely, appear docile, unresponsive to touch or attention. The latter is particularly dangerous, as the animal may unpredictably feel threatened and react with a bite.
Symptoms in rabid bats include inability to fly and unusual ground presence. Regardless of their overall behavior, these animals tend to drool. They often make strange noises, a result of throat muscle paralysis. Additionally, they exhibit an unsteady gait.
In humans, initial symptoms may resemble the flu, with itchiness at the bite site. Subsequently, the disease progresses to cerebral dysfunction and, ultimately, death.
Since 2016, only 14 individuals have survived rabies worldwide, compared to 59,000 fatalities. Immediate medical attention is crucial following a bite from any wild animal. However, there are no records of rats spreading rabies.
Rats Are Vectors of Other Diseases
Although rats do not transmit rabies, they can still pose a risk to humans and animals. Most of the danger comes from contact with rat waste – urine and feces – which can carry diseases like hantavirus. Additionally, rat bites can potentially transmit a bacterial infection called rat-bite fever, which is lethal for one in ten victims.
The risk of illness following a bite is real, as their saliva can cause other infections. You should promptly report any rat bite to a healthcare professional, even if you’re not concerned about rabies. Thoroughly clean the wound with soap and water, applying antibiotics thereafter.
You must take immediate action if you encounter rats or rat droppings on your property. Don’t allow a minor problem to escalate into a major issue. For personalized assistance with pest control measures, contact us at On Demand Pest Control.