Rare Rat-borne Virus Outbreak Confirmed, CDC

According to the CDC, eight people who work at pet rat breeding facilities in Illinois and Wisconsin have been infected with a virus that is not typically found in the U.S. This is the first confirmed outbreak of the virus, which is called Seoul virus, in pet rats in this country, although several outbreaks have occurred in wild rats.

A member of the Hantavirus family of rodent-borne viruses, Seoul virus can cause fever, severe headache, back and abdominal pain, chills, blurry vision, eye redness, and rash in people. Most rats infected with the virus are unaffected. Transmission usually occurs through a bite or exposure to blood, saliva, or urine from an infected rat.

The CDC, along with state and local health officials, is working to determine the origin of this outbreak and whether any additional people may have been infected. Anyone who recently purchased a pet rat and develops symptoms of Seoul virus should contact his or her health care provider right away. To prevent infection, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water after touching, feeding, or caring for pet rats and other rodents; clean and disinfect cages and other supplies frequently; and avoid contact with urine or droppings.

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Sourced from: CBS News