Idaho man faces $500K in medical bills after rat bite

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A man working for a rodent breeder in Post Falls, Idaho, faces more than $500,000 in medical bills for treatment he received after contracting "rat bite fever," an infectious disease caused by bacteria, according to TV station KREM.

Eric Lundholm was bitten by a rat in July while working at Butter Ball Rodents. He became severely ill several weeks later and was admitted to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho-based Kootenai Health. While at the hospital, Mr. Lundholm's heart rate increased and his fever hit 104 degrees, according to the report.

When Mr. Lundholm was admitted to the hospital, physicians didn't know he had contracted rat bite fever, which can be fatal if left untreated. As his condition worsened, physicians warned Mr. Lundholm that he "could go into heart failure at any moment," he told KREM.

Surgeons performed open-heart surgery on Mr. Lundholm to repair damage caused by the bacteria. A piece of tissue removed during surgery was sent to the University of Washington, where experts confirmed Mr. Lundholm had contracted rat bite fever, according to the report.

Mr. Lundholm told KREM it may be a year before his health is back to normal, and medical bills for his surgery and other treatment are expected to top $500,000. He expects to have a significant amount of out-of-pocket expenses because healthcare providers in Idaho are out of the network covered by an insurance plan provided by his previous employer in Hawaii, according to the Coeur d'Alene Press.

There are roughly 20,000 rat bites reported in the U.S. each year. One in 10 of those cases result in rat bite fever, according to the Coeur d'Alene Press.

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