It is not very common to be bitten by a rat, although they display aggression when threatened and may bite, fight and even chase the offender. For urban rats that habitually live in and around human dwellings – in the sewers, around garbage dumps, farms, as well as inside of houses, most of their activities are carried out at night when humans are asleep and unexpected ‘interference’ at such times may lead to the rat being startled and displaying aggression.
Unprovoked attacks by rats have also been reported, when a rat would creep up on the sleeping forms of humans to bite them. Majority of the victims tend to be children, bed-confined seniors, or homeless people sleeping in alleys. In some cases, these individuals may have fallen asleep while eating, thereby having food residues on their person. These serve to attract the foraging rats and they basically attempt to eat the food residues off the sleeping form. Mostly susceptible to this victimization, are exposed body parts in sleep, like the toes, fingers, and hands.
Possibility of Infections and Diseases
Thankfully, rat bites are rarely severe as the infection rate is at a low of about two percent. A standard treatment would be to simply wash the wound and keep it dry. In a few cases however, diseases and infections can be transmitted to the bitten individual. Examples are:
- Rat bite fever or rat pox may be transmitted from an infected rat to the bitten individual.
- The saliva of some rat species contains hazardous diseases like Leptospirosis and Hantavirus.
- Rodent bites also make humans susceptible to tetanus infections.
As a precaution, all rat bites should be promptly and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Medical attention would be in order as well as some individuals may need tetanus shots.
Rodents are not known to transmit rabies.
What to Do
- Control any bleeding, but avoid using a tourniquet except in cases of severe bleeding.
- After the bleeding stops, clean the wound inside and out with soap and warm water. Be sure to rinse all the soap away unless it will cause irritation later.
- Bind wound with a clean, dry dressing. You may apply an antibiotic ointment before covering to treat any infection.
- Swelling may occur; if the injury is on a finger, you should remove any rings from injured fingers. And watch for other signs of infection redness, heat, weeping pus
- Consult your doctor. It is important to get professional assessment as the wound may need stitches.
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