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Fever, petechiae, and joint pain

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Our patient’s signs and symptoms developed one week after being bitten by a rat that she was feeding to her son’s pet snake.


 

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A 59-year-old woman presented to our emergency department with a rash, severe acute pain in her left hip and lower back, and dyspnea on exertion. She denied having a headache and her mental status was at baseline. The woman reported exposure to rats and snakes one week prior to presentation, and mentioned getting bitten by a rat multiple times on the back of both of her hands while feeding it to her son’s pet snake. The patient had a history of a left hip replacement, with a revision and bone graft 5 years earlier.

Hemorrhagic nodules at the sites of the bites on the patient's hand image

The patient had a fever of 103° F during the physical examination. She had erythematous papules and central hemorrhagic eschars at the sites of the bites (FIGURE 1). She also had nonblanching petechiae on both of her lower legs (FIGURE 2) and on the dorsal and palmar aspects of her hands.

Diffuse petechial rash on the patient's leg image

The patient’s lab work showed mild normocytic anemia with a hemoglobin level of 11.4 g/dL (normal, 12-16 g/dL) and a platelet count of 129,000/mcL (normal, 130,000-400,000/mcL). Her white blood cell count, chemistries, brain natriuretic peptide test, and chest x-ray were normal.

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