Wisconsin, Illinois and More States Found Positive for Rat-Transmitted Seoul Virus
Feb 23, 2017 04:54 AM EST
With the Seoul virus infection spreading through Illinois and Wisconsin since December 2016, 11 people have already been infected in these two states along with Colorado this month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new report on the condition that first began as an illness among rats.
According to the CDC’s report in its Health Alert Network (HAN) publication, two of the 11 people infected with the Seoul virus were hospitalized. The first two cases of the infection were reported back in December when Wisconsin pet rat breeders developed an acute febrile illness that was subsequently confirmed as Seoul virus infection. Rats tested in several facilities within the state were also found positive for Seoul virus.
Deemed a type of hantavirus, the Seoul virus can be transmitted from rats to humans through exposure to infected rodents’ urine, saliva or droppings, as reported by the CDC. Humans can also be infected if they are exposed to the dust from these rats’ nests or bedding. A person’s broken skin or even the mucous membrane will allow direct virus transmission from rat bites and contaminated materials.
In the United States, Seoul virus is not common; such recent outbreak has been the first epidemic that involves pet rats in the country. There have been follow-up investigations indicating that pet rats in several states may be potentially infected; these include those handed out and received in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah, among others. These investigations also noted that the affected breeding facilities are those who are involved in the pet rat trade. None of them have supplied rats to research facilities.
Furthermore, these investigations by the CDC led to a collaborative effort with Canada’s public health officials. It was found that rats have been distributed and received between affected US facilities and Canada’s rat breeding facilities.
Earlier this month, three human cases for the Hemorrhagic Fever Renal Syndrome (HFRS) group of hantaviruses were found positive. These included the Seoul virus along with the Hantaan, Puumala and Dobrava viruses. No life-threatening illnesses were found among these individuals.
In response to the Seoul virus infection outbreak, US’ and Canada’s health authorities seek to carry out several measures, including additional testing in laboratories and characterization of viruses to determine Seoul virus exposure among humans. While testing of rats will be further conducted, pet rat breeding facilities will be comprehensively assessed. The exchange of pet rats prior to the detection of the Seoul virus outbreak will be further investigated as well.