Sunday, April 5, 2015

Answers. #RatBiteFever Part 6.

Yep, there's more to the story! Check out these posts if you haven't yet:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5

So, it is now Wednesday. Nearly two weeks since Orrin first started having problems. We are at Helen DeVos children's hospital, admitted, and looking for answers.


More doctors started to come in. First some residents, as DeVos is a teaching hospital, then Dr. Kassenich.  She came in and told us that Orrin has arthritis, but there are two forms of arthritis: primary arthritis and secondary arthritis. Secondary arthritis is caused by something else. She said they would figure out what was wrong and we WOULD have answers. So we talked.

I told Dr. Kassenich everything I could think of... about the strep throat that went through our house a couple months ago, the new Baltic Amber teething necklace we had gotten the day before this started, the rat bite. We talked about his arm and leg, and how there was no known trauma to either.

When I told her about the rat bite she said, "that is probably THE most important thing you've said".  I knew then that she thought it was rat bite fever. She said there would be more blood tests done, and that she would consult with an infectious disease (ID) doctor and that ID would be in to look at Orrin.

Blood was taken, and IV was started (which was horrible... Orrin has horrible veins and it was just such a bad experience).  That first night was a night of waiting. No real answers...

Orrin was started on penicillin as a precaution.

Rat Bite Fever, if left untreated, ends in death in 10-25% of the cases, and can result in problems with the heart, and linings of the spine and brain (as well as a bunch of other complications), so it was better to get this simple treatment started rather than delay. ID wouldn't be able to see us until the next day, and they would be the ones who determined if it was, in fact, rat bite fever.

The night was horrible. Very little sleep for anyone in the room. Orrin was cranky, and his IV kept having issues.

A little bit of precious sleep.... pure exhaustion!

The next morning, Thursday, Orrin's IV came out by accident. He got a new IV, this time in his foot... and no less trouble than the first. Orrin wasn't eating or drinking, he was quickly becoming dehydrated. We needed the IV for the antibiotics and his hydration.

An Infectious Disease resident came in and talked to us. Heard the whole story, checked out the finger which had been bit, and looked Orrin over. He said he would consult with the ID doctor and get back to us. A little later ID came in and said, yes, they do believe that he has Rat Bite Fever (Streptobacillus moniliformis)

Rat Bite Fever comes from a type of staph bacteria that is in nearly all mouths of rats. It can also be carried by other rodents. This dangerous possibility was never mentioned by the pet store where we purchased the rat. We had no idea that "Rat bite fever" even existed before this situation. The rat just seemed like a cute and easy pet.

With about 200 documented cases of rat bite fever in the US since 1839, it is a relatively rare and unknown illness, but one that anyone who owns a rat should know about. Rats do not die from this bacteria, they are only carriers. A person does NOT need to be bit to get ill from this bacteria. Something as simple as holding the animal can lead to infection. Scratches and bites make it easier to transmit, but they are not the only way of transmission. Please, be cautious.

We still have no idea why the rat died, the only reason I can see is divine intervention to help us remember that Orrin was bit.

The bacteria that causes rat bite fever is difficult to grow for a blood test, it takes specific conditions which are hard to create in a lab. We are still awaiting final test results, but they may take up to three weeks.

About 24 hours after starting the penicillin we did notice that Orrin was improving. He was able to stand. By Friday morning he was able to walk. The usual treatment for rat bite fever is 5-7 days of IV penicillin, and then oral antibiotics for an additional 14 days. Due to the multiple issues with Orrin's IVs and his difficult veins, the doctors decided that he would be switched to oral antibiotics as of Friday. We were released Friday afternoon, and so far Orrin seems to be pretty happy.

Orrin has been walking around, playing, and eating plenty of Easter candy today!

We will continue to watch for fever and joint pain to be sure he doesn't relapse, and we will be following up with his doctors to make sure that he doesn't have any complications in his joints, heart, brain, or lungs.

We were told that with treatment of antibiotics, the mortality rate of Rat Bite Fever is extremely low and Orrin seems to be doing great so far. It's been a crazy couple of weeks...

Have you owned a pet rat? Would you own a pet rat now?

4 fantastic comments:

Parenting Patch said...

I have owned rats, and I would get another in the future. Yes, rats can carry harmful bacteria, but so can other animals such as my dogs or cat. Heck, if another child bit my kid at the playground or something, my kid could get a disease as well.

Six in the Nest said...

That is true, Parenting Patch. There are a lot of harmful things out there and you can't protect your kids from everything. I won't own another rodent even though I know what to look for now. The benefit just doesn't outweigh the risk for me. There are lots of other animals that are great fits for our family. :) Thanks for responding!

JewelWood said...

I read your whole story and never heard of Rat fever! My son had a rat for years and never had any problems! I am so sorry about your son getting so sick, and am so glad that he finally got diagnosed and treated! I will pray that he has no relapses! He is such a cute boy!

Six in the Nest said...

Aww. Thank you, Julie! I'm glad that your son never had any problems. It is rare, but I definitely think there needs to be more awareness for Rat Bite Fever so that people can look for the symptoms, and hopefully save a life.

Thanks for reading and responding!<3

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