A rare, rat-borne disease has infected 8 people in the United States. RateMDs details the story, and how to protect yourself against disease and viruses.
A rare, rat-borne virus has been found in eight people in the U.S., said federal health officials late last week.
The eight people, who work between several rat-breeding facilities in Illinois & Wisconsin, were diagnosed with the Seoul virus, the first outbreak associated with pet rats in the United States. Several outbreaks have been the result of wild rats however, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Seoul virus is a part of the Hantavirus family of rodent-borne viruses, carried by wild Norway rats worldwide; rats carrying the virus generally don’t appear to be sick or abnormal.
Exposure to body fluids from infected rats, or getting bitten by one, is how the infection spreads – people can’t get the virus from other people, or other species of pets, the CDC said in a news release. People with the virus can experience symptoms like fever, severe headache, back and abdominal pain, chills, blurred vision, eye redness and rash. In rare cases, the Seoul virus can lead to kidney disease.
The CDC is now working with both state and local health officials to learn how the outbreak happened, and if there are other people who could’ve been potentially affected. The group has already warned anyone who’s bought a rat and has symptoms of Seoul virus should contact a health professional ASAP.
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To safeguard yourself against the Seoul virus (and other rat disease), remember to:
- Wash your hands with soap and running water after touching, feeding or caring for rodents.
- Clean and disinfect rodent habitats and supplies.
- Never clean rodent habitats or supplies in the kitchen sink or bathroom sink.
- Avoid urine or droppings when cleaning rodent cages.
If you ever happen to get bitten by a particularly feisty rodent, be sure to wash the wound with warm soap water immediately, and find medical attention if:
- Your wound is serious, or becomes red, painful, warm or swollen;
- Your last tetanus shot was more than five years ago;
- You develop fever or flu-like illness a week or two after being bitten