Simone Stapley, 34, died after contracting the fever from a rat bite on her finger, an Oxfordshire coroner ruled.
The inquest at Oxford Coroner’s Court yesterday heard how she was bitten on her finger by the rat on November 3rd last year but did not seek medical help despite signs of infection.
The condition of Ms Stapley, of Abingdon, deteriorated and she was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford on November 7th and died from a heart attack a day later.
Coroner Darren Salter said people should be more aware that there’s a risk of an infection from a rat bite or scratch.
He also urged people to be aware of the dangers of not seeking urgent treatment, but advised that the vast majority of cases can be dealt with in a few days with antibiotics.
‘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 result in death.
Symptoms include fever, vomiting, headaches and muscle pain.
Complications can lead to infections of the lungs, liver and heart.
Around one in ten people with the infection die.
The inquest heard Ms Stapley 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.
People with pet rats should wash their hands immediately after touching, feeding or caring for their animal.