Rodents are endowed with tremendously sharp teeth that they use in order to gnaw on a variety of materials, such as plastic, wood and even metal. Rodent incisors constantly grow, and if they didn’t, rodents would wear their incisors down to nothing. The two most common rodent pests of homes in the US, house mice and Norway rats, frequently use their teeth to inflict damage to walls, furniture upholstery and electrical wires. Although rare, rats are also known for inflicting bites to humans within homes.

The annual number of rat bites sustained in the US cannot be determined, as the majority of bite incidents are likely never reported. People of all ages are reportedly bitten by rats each year in the US, but young children represent the largest group of people treated for rat bites at hospitals. The vast majority of reported rat bites occur within human dwellings while victims are sleeping. Most rat bites are not severe and only 2 percent lead to infection. A small number of rat bites transmit serious diseases like rat-bite fever and ratpox, but luckily, rat bites do not put a person at risk of rabies infection in the US.

Public health officials estimate that only 10 percent of rat bite incidents that occur in the US each year end up being reported, and of all the rat bites treated in hospitals and clinics in the US, only 41 percent are reported to national health authorities. While most rat bite incidents are underreported, experts believe that rat bites are exceedingly rare in the US. For example, a survey of 1,363 people in Baltimore found that nearly two-thirds of them had seen rats in streets and other urban areas, and 6 percent had seen rats in homes, but only 1.2 percent claimed to have experienced a rodent bite during their lifetime. According to two scientific surveys of people hospitalized with rat bites, not a single one of the 564 patients had contracted a rodent-borne disease from their bites.

Have you or anyone you know ever sustained a rat bite?