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Rat bite ailment claims California pet shop worker

SHARE Rat bite ailment claims California pet shop worker

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — A pet shop worker died of a severe heart ailment caused by rat bite fever, a rare infection that he contracted by cutting his finger on a rat cage, doctors said.

Jeffrey Banks, 24, died Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Federal health officials said only a few cases of rat bite fever are reported each year.

"If the source is cutting yourself on a dirty cage, and it is not diagnosed quickly, it can become very serious," said Dr. Christian Newcomer, director of the Veterinary Resource Program of the National Institutes of Health.

Jeffrey Banks reportedly scratched his finger in mid-July at the pet shop where he worked. The infection he contracted attacked his heart, forcing him to undergo two operations. The bacteria destroyed one of his heart valves and damaged another.