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February 3, 1945


JAMA. 1945;127(5):270-273. doi:10.1001/jama.1945.02860050018005

Rat bite fever is a peculiar and relatively rare disease of man which occasionally develops after the bite of a rat. There is some evidence that this condition has been known in India for two thousand three hundred years and that India may have been its source. Modern medical literature on this subject began with the report of Wilcox in 1840, who recorded a group of symptoms that followed the bite of a rat. Since then case reports have been published in nearly all of the countries of the world, including Asia, Japan, Europe, England, North and South America, Hawaii and Australia. In the United States the disease has now been reported in twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia, but the incidence has been greatest in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois. In spite of its worldwide distribution, an epidemic spread of rat bite fever has never been recorded.