Woman, 34, died from ‘rat bite fever’ after bitten by pet rodent

A young woman died after suffering from 'rat bite fever' after being bitten by her pet rat.

Simone Stapley, 34, died on November 8, last year after she was bitten by her own pet rat which caused her to develop 'rat bite fever'.

She was bitten on her finger by her rat on November 3, but did not seek medical help despite signs of infection, an inquest heard.

When it got infected, the mother-of-one spoke to an NHS 111 operator, but she ignored calls to go to her GP.

The condition of Ms Stapley from Abingdon in Oxfordshire deteriorated and she was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford on November 7, where she died of a heart attack a day later.

The Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter has said more people should be aware of the dangers of not seeing treatment for 'rat bite fever'.

So-called rat bite fever is transmitted to humans through a bite wound or by contact with open skin by rodents carrying the bacteria.

It is rare in the UK and can usually be treated by a course of antibiotics, but if nothing is done, it can develop into a serious illness and prove fatal.

The symptoms include: fever, vomiting, headaches and muscle pain.

Complications of the fever can lead to infections of the lungs, liver and heart and around one in ten people with the infection die.

According to a written statement by Ms Stapley's boyfriend Ryan Bligdon, on the morning of her death she had been confused, reporting to have seen her son on the stairs when he was not there.

Mr Bligdon then believed Ms Stapley, who had suffered from repeated chest infections, was suffering from a stroke and called an ambulance.

The inquest heard she had previously been unwell with bouts of pneumonia and other illnesses prior to being bitten, which may have reduced her immune system.

At the hearing her family questioned the time it took for an ambulance to reach her and about advice previously given to her by medical professionals.

The coroner said: "People should be more aware that there's a risk of an infection from a rat bite or scratch and about the need to seek urgent treatment.

"The vast majority of cases can be dealt with in a few days using a regular course of antibiotics."

People with pet rats are advised to should wash their hands immediately after touching, feeding or caring for their pet.

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