Boy, 10, dies from rat-bite fever

Shocking ... Aidan Pankey died just 48 hours after being bitten by his pet rat. Picture: ABC 15

THE family of a 10-year-old boy who died from rat-bite fever is suing the retailer which sold them the rodent.

Aidan Pankey died just 48 hours after coming down with flu-like symptoms two weeks after buying the Alex the rat at a Petco in California.

The little boy’s sudden death in June left his devastated family confused and ‘numb’, ABC 15 reported.

‘I put him to bed after a day at the doctor’s office and the next thing I knew it just was too late,’ Aidan’s grandmother Sharon Pankey said.

‘I went into his room and he couldn’t speak. He was unstable on his feet. I got him down to my room and he collapsed on the floor. I called 911 because it was scaring me that his breathing was shallow and he seemed to be losing his ability to function.’

It wasn’t until six months later that the family learned from the medical examiner that Aidan died from streptobacillus moniliformis, or rat-bite fever.

This rare, infectious disease can be caused by two different bacteria and comes mostly from bites, scratches or handling an infected rodent. It is fatal if left untreated.


Shocking … Aidan Pankey died just 48 hours after being bitten by his pet rat. Picture: ABC 15

Now, Aidan’s grieving family is filing a lawsuit against Petco claiming various causes of action for strict liability and negligence.

‘Clearly there were not sufficient safety procedures in place at Petco when they sold this rat,’ the family’s attorney, Hamilton Arendsen of Gomez Trial Attorneys, said.

Aidan’s death has destroyed the family, with his father Andrew Pankey saying he was forced to take a leave of absence from work.

‘He was my family,’ he said. ‘I’m probably down 30 to 35 pounds since then. I don’t even get hungry. I just go until I pass out.’

The boy’s grandmother bought him the rat because she saw how happy his first one, Oreo, made him.

‘He’d pop her on his shoulder and that little rat would hang on,’ Sharon Pankey said. ‘It was like she was saying all right! Let’s go dad.’

Petco has expressed its condolences in a statement.

‘We are deeply saddened by the Pankey family’s tragic loss,’ Petco said . ‘The health and safety of people and pets is always a top priority, and we take the family’s concerns very seriously.’

Petco also insisted it uses the most rigorous safety standards in the industry.

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