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Girl contracts potentially fatal illness from pet rat in Southern California

pet rat
Posted at 3:32 PM, May 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-01 12:47:11-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The mother of a Southern California girl diagnosed with rat-bite fever is sharing her story at a San Diego hospital Friday to educate other parents about the danger.

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

8-year-old Cali from Menifee 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 whole-body rash.

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

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," said Sabrina. “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: