Rats in general are equipped with large teeth and give painful bites when threatened. Healthy rats typically avoid people and prefer to be active when buildings are quiet. However, when feeling threatened, they will bite to defend themselves. Rat bites may be shallow or deep. Some bites display single puncture wounds, while others display multiple abrasions. Bleeding often occurs. The majority of rat-bite patients tend to be children. Rats tend to bite parts of the body that are exposed, like hands and fingers. Rat bites are usually not severe: most bites are simply washed and the patient is immediately released.
Very rarely, a rat may transmit a disease such as rat-bite fever or ratpox through a rat bite. Rats are not a rabies risk in the United States. Although the infection rate is very low, all rodent bites should be promptly and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The saliva of some species of rats carries hazardous diseases, such as leptospirosis and Hantavirus. Tetanus immunizations may be required for those who have not received them in recent years. Despite common belief, no rodent bites in North America have ever resulted in the transmission of rabies. However, a person bitten by a rat should seek a medical professional.