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Published On: Wed, Feb 26th, 2014

Family of Aidan Pankey, boy that died from a rat-bite fever infection, sues Petco

The family of a 10-year-old San Diego boy who died last year from an infection he contracted from a pet rat bought last spring has filed a lawsuit Monday against Petco saying  the pet retailer should have known about the rodent’s health and did not adequately test for the disease. In addition, the lawsuit says Petco was negligent and this led to 10-year-old Aidan  Pankey’s death, according to an Associated Press report today.

Image/Video Screen Shot

Image/Video Screen Shot

Petco’s negligence  has caused his parents, Andrew Pankey and Vanessa Sauer, emotional and economic hardship, the lawsuit states.

Aidan’s grandmother bought the rat last May 27 and the child presented with severe symptoms, fever and pain,  on June 11 and passed away early the next morning.

After Aidan died, the San Diego County medical examiner’s office ruled that the cause of death was Streptobacillus moniliformis infection, commonly known as rat-bite fever.

The lawsuit was only now filed because they were waiting for CDC confirmation of laboratory results.

Petco made the following statement:

“We are deeply saddened by the Pankey family’s tragic loss, the health and safety of people and pets is always a top priority, and we take the family’s concerns very seriously.” In addition, the company said they were “in the process of investigating these claims and will respond appropriately when we have more information.”

“Rat-bite fever” is a general term to describe two relatively rare bacterial infections ( about 200 cases of rat-bite fever had been documented in the U.S. as of 2004, according to the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University) : Streptobacillus moniliformis, also known as Haverhill fever, and Spirillum minor, also known as Sodoku.

Rats/CDC

Rats/CDC

Both bacteria are normal or commensal organisms found in rats and to a lesser extent other rodents and mammals.

These infections are found worldwide, but seen most commonly in Asia and Africa.

The bacteria are found in the oral and nasal secretions of the infected rat. It can also be found in the rat’s urine.

Transmission to people is most frequently the result of a rat bite, however direct contact with the rats is not always necessary. People who work or live in rat infested buildings are also at risk and it has been transmitted through contaminated water and milk.

After about a week after being exposed, there is an abrupt onset of chills, fever, headache and muscle pains.

With S. moniliformis, a rash on the extremities appears after a few days. Arthritic symptoms may also be present.

On the other hand with S. minor, an ulcerated lesion at the bite site is typical and symptoms of arthritis are rare.

Untreated cases can be fatal in up to 10% of cases. Endocarditis, pericarditis and abscesses of the brain are complications of untreated rat-bite fever.

Diagnosis of S. moniliformis can be confirmed through culture of primary lesion, blood, lymph node or joint fluid on specialized media. S. minor has not been cultured on artificial media and animal inoculation is required.

Penicillin or tetracycline can be used to treat the infection. 

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page and the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show page.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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