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Parents say pet store was negligent in selling infected rat

It is unlikely that many people in Pittsburgh know of anyone who has had rat-bite fever, a condition that is most often contracted by handling infected rats and other rodents. Typically, a person must be scratched or bitten by the rat, but anyone can contract the condition just by consuming something with the streptobacillus moniliformis bacteria in it. Fortunately, most people who become infected are fine after a round of antibiotics, but the condition can be fatal.

Sadly, an out-of-state boy died of rat-bite fever after a rat that was purchased at the pet store Petco infected him. Now, his parents are filing a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming financial and emotional damages.

The young California boy already had one rat, but he wanted a companion for her, so his grandmother bought him a second rat from Petco. That rat, however, was infected with streptobacillus moniliformis and soon infected the boy. When he woke up one night he was in such pain and was so lethargic that he couldn't walk properly. Though he was taken to the hospital, he died a few short hours later.

What the family is likely wondering is how an infected rat could be sold. While Petco's website does have some information about rat-bite fever in its stores and online, the lawsuit alleges that there was not sufficient warning about the condition, especially the risks for children in owning rats. Moreover, the parents' believe the pet store was negligent in testing the rat, arguing that it should have done a better job of discovering whether the rat was sick.

Source: CBS News, “Family sues Petco after boy dies from ‘rat-bite fever’,” Feb. 25, 2014

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