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(CNN)The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Friday that pet rats are the source of an outbreak of Seoul virus infections in Illinois and Wisconsin. The virus has been confirmed in eight patients in an ongoing investigation.




The recent cases are "the first human cases we've seen in the United States associated with pet rats," said Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, a veterinarian and deputy division director for CDC's division of high consequent pathogens and pathology. Several previous outbreaks reported in the US occurred in wild rats.
"There was an outbreak reported in Europe previously associated with pet rats, so it's not the first time this has been associated with pets worldwide," McQuiston said.
Investigation in Wisconsin leads to Illinois
The initial patient in the current outbreak, a resident of Wisconsin, visited a hospital with flu-like symptoms, according to Stephanie Smiley, director of the bureau of communicable disease with Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The patient was a home-based rodent breeder.
Because of the patient's exposure to rodents, the doctor had a "hunch" to test for hantavirus, explained Smiley.

Cats, the ultimate weapon in public health


Following a positive test result for hantavirus in late December, Wisconsin health officials sent a sample from the patient to the CDC along with a separate sample from a second patient -- a family member who also worked with rodents.
On January 11, the CDC confirmed infections with Seoul virus, a rodent-borne hantavirus, in both patients.
Though related, Seoul virus is considered different from hantavirus and it is not typically seen in the US, said McQuiston.
"This is typically associated with a milder illness than we think about with the classic hantavirus we talk about in the US, but it can be, in rare cases, associated with some more severe symptoms, such as renal disease," said McQuiston.
According to Smiley, symptoms of Seoul virus can include fever, chills, nausea, pink eye-type eye infection and abdominal pain. Though it rarely happens, a simple infection can progress to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which begins with fever, severe aches and fatigue, and may turn fatal.

Is your pet going to make you ill?


Seoul virus symptoms often develop within one to two weeks after contact, but can take as long as eight weeks to appear, said Smiley.
Both of the Wisconsin patients have since recovered, but the discovery of infection led to a follow-up investigation at several rat suppliers, which revealed an additional six cases of Seoul virus among workers at two Illinois breeding facilities, according to Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health. She added these cases were confirmed by the CDC on January 18.
"Six people tested positive for Seoul virus, but only one experienced illness," said Arnold, explaining that five people showed no symptoms of the virus, which cannot be transmitted among people, regardless of whether symptoms are present or not. The one patient who became sick has since recovered.
Public health officials said that more ratteries and more infected people may be identified as the investigation proceeds.
A 'complicated' investigation
Usually people become infected when they come in contact with infectious fluids, such as blood, saliva and urine, from infected rats, or are bitten by them. Infected rats typically do not appear sick.
Worldwide, the Seoul virus is carried by wild Norway rats.




Worldwide, the Seoul virus is carried by wild Norway rats, which first arrived on this continent during the late 1700s and then began to dominate urban centers throughout the country. Most infections among people have been reported in Asia.
"Illinois Department of Public Health is currently working with local health departments and the ratteries to identify clients and people who may have been exposed to the rats, but the total numbers are unknown," said Arnold. The state's health department is working with both the CDC and the Wisconsin Department of Public Health to try to identify the origin of the rats.
Meanwhile, the CDC is working with local and state health authorities in both states to continue testing rats and humans for Seoul virus infections.
McQuiston explained that the CDC has been tracing back to where rats may have come from, and tracing out to where rats may have gone from the facilities where Seoul virus infections occurred.

Diseases you thought were gone


"It's been fairly complicated," said McQuiston, adding that the CDC believes so far that the virus has not spread beyond or outside "the network that we're investigating right now."
Anyone who recently purchased a rat in the affected areas and experiences Seoul virus symptoms should contact their healthcare provider immediately.
People in Illinois and Wisconsin who have purchased or come in contact with rats from the affected breeders should contact their local or state health departments.
"Our general recommendation is that anybody who has a pet rodent or pet rat should be cognizant of good pet care behavior," said McQuiston.
Caring for a pet rat
To prevent diseases or infections carried by rats, people should wash their hands with soap and running water after touching or feeding rodents or cleaning their habitats. Children need to be assisted with their handwashing.

The virus hunters in search of the next outbreak


Whenever possible, pet owners should clean and disinfect rodent cages and supplies outside the home -- never perform this clean-up in the kitchen or bathroom. Wear gloves, if possible, to avoid coming into contact with droppings or urine.
Because pet rodents can shed germs and contaminate areas where they roam, make sure their cages are properly secured and safe.
Avoid bites and scratches from any rodent. Even if an animal seems friendly, be cautious. Routinely visit your veterinarian to keep a pet rodent healthy and disease-free.
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If bitten or scratched, wash the wound with warm soapy water immediately. Even healthy pets can carry germs.
See a doctor if the pet appears sick, if the wound is serious, if the wound turns red, painful, warm or swollen, if your last tetanus shot was more than five years ago or if you develop sudden fever or flu-like illness within two weeks after being bitten.
"We have seen occasional rare cases of Seoul virus infections in the US but those have not been linked to pet rodents. It's thought that they were more linked to wild rat exposure," said McQuiston. "We do know Seoul virus can circulate in wild rat populations -- really around the world. We don't really know how often or common it is, it's not a very well studied virus in that respect."

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/20/health/pet-rats-seoul-virus-outbreak-cdc-bn/index.html
 

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As someone who lives in Wisconsin and obviously deals with a lot of rats, I am going to get looked at just in case. Thanks so much for this info!
 

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I just wanted to add that MANY breeders right now, from all over the US even those who have no way possible to be concerned are temporarily closing with a no rats in or out rule until the CDC investigation is over.
Mostly as a show of support for those breeders but also to show that we put the health of our rats and people above sales and to encourage no one to buy any rats during this time. Things like this spread easily, many breeders were involved from sharing rats. Rats are shared all the time across states. Until the CDC's investigation is over it is much safer to not buy any rats.

I highly advise everyone to not purchase any rats at this time. Even more so from unknown sources or where they have brought in any new rats recently.

Also everyone should send support and good thoughts for all those involved!

Help spread the word! Give support to those breeders choosing to be responsible and enourage others not to buy at this time.
 

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My friend from Illinois just sent me an article on this yesterday, she's got two berkshire boys that she got from a breeder 5(ish) months ago. They weren't from any breeder that has been confirmed to be associated with the virus. Should I tell her to get checked out? Also is it true that only "brown rats" carry it? That's what I was told by someone but maybe they were confused about Norway rats vs Rat coat colors?
 

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My friend from Illinois just sent me an article on this yesterday, she's got two berkshire boys that she got from a breeder 5(ish) months ago. They weren't from any breeder that has been confirmed to be associated with the virus. Should I tell her to get checked out? Also is it true that only "brown rats" carry it? That's what I was told by someone but maybe they were confused about Norway rats vs Rat coat colors?
I would tell her. Every rat owner needs to know about this.
 

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Also is it true that only "brown rats" carry it? That's what I was told by someone but maybe they were confused about Norway rats vs Rat coat colors?
All of our pet rats are Rattus norvegicus. They are also called brown rat & norway rat.

All the same rat, just different names.

Our pet rats can carry it :( It is very very rare though. They likely came in contact with wild rats in some way.

One of the breeders who was infected had all her rats taken to be tested and put down :( Other breeders who had contact are having their rats tested.


Everyone should definitely be aware of this. But I wouldn't worry or panic at all.
 

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How common would it be for our pets to have this. Is it reall so serious that we could get it just from breathing the air or touching our rats?
 

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How common would it be for our pets to have this. Is it reall so serious that we could get it just from breathing the air or touching our rats?
It is insanely rare. These are some of the first cases of people ever getting it in the US even.

Wild rats do carry it and it is why we stress don't handle wild rodents. They are not pets. Do not catch them. That is very likely what happened though it is not known at this time.

Our pets do not naturally have it, they likely were in contact with wild rats that did.

It is carried by blood, feces, urine and saliva. it can be kicked up in the bedding & such and infect us that way as well. So yes if your rats have it you likely would as well.


This is something we all should take very very seriously. But also it is not something that should cause a panic. It is highly unlikely any of our pets are infected that have not been in contact with the infected rats. The only real issue is that we do not know how long ago rats were infected or how wide spread it could be.



Also in case no one has heard the CDC is planning on removing and euthanizing all of one of the breeders who tested positive rats. My heart goes out to her :( This is a very tragic incident.
 

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How heartbreaking for ratteries to go through this, I can't even imagine! Do we know if the breeders involved are just small hobby/pet breeders or were any of them larger scale breeders that supply frozen feeders or mills (in which case reptile owners will have the same problem)?

I'm not concerned for my bunch, but I did find the CDC's recommendation for preventing contracting this from pet rats rather hopeless, like moonkissed pointed out (avoid direct contact with urine, feces, saliva and don't get scratched, don't use a dry vacuum because it's airborne too, etc).
 

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How heartbreaking for ratteries to go through this, I can't even imagine! Do we know if the breeders involved are just small hobby/pet breeders or were any of them larger scale breeders that supply frozen feeders or mills (in which case reptile owners will have the same problem)?
Some of them are very well known breeders. And as such their rats could potentially be everywhere and it could have spread far and wide.

They were not mills. I am not sure if they supplied food or not. I do know one of the breeders who tested positive had snakes and the CDC took all of them too.
Someone who worked in a pet shop said they got rats from one of the breeders (idk if it were for food or pets) & idk if it is even true.

We just have no idea how contained it is right now.

I STRONGLY suggest no one buys any rats from ANY source right now, until the CDC investigation is over.

You can have your rats tested. The test itself is like $11 but some states require you to work through your vet so your vet may charge more.
http://www.idexxbioresearch.com/opti-spot-sop
 

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I read it came from a commercial breeding facility (feeders- pet store rats from rat mills). All it takes is going to a pet store and bringing the virus back to your home. Not going to set foot in a pet store any time soon.
 

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If you get your rats tested and they test positive, they will be killed! Be aware of that. I love my rats, I'm not going to get them tested. No way.
 

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I read it came from a commercial breeding facility (feeders- pet store rats from rat mills). All it takes is going to a pet store and bringing the virus back to your home. Not going to set foot in a pet store any time soon.
No it was first found among hobby breeders. The breeder herself & her son were sick. She had to go to the hospital for it where she tested positive for it. They traced the rats and other breeders who had contact tested them and they were positive as well. Though I believe no one else was sick or showing any symptoms. People tested positive before any rats were ever tested.
http://www.dph.illinois.gov/news/illinois-department-public-health-reports-six-cases-viral-illness-linked-ratteries


Honestly there are other viruses too out there that make it very unsafe to ever visit a pet store where rats are sold :(

If you get your rats tested and they test positive, they will be killed! Be aware of that. I love my rats, I'm not going to get them tested. No way.
Ofcourse if any animal has a virus that can be spread it needs to be euthanized so it does not spread it. While some people are afraid that the CDC will just swoop in, it is pretty doubtful when just having it tested yourself. But the animal should be put down.
And IMO it is far better to know then not know. Atleast if you know you can take precautions. And get yourself in to see a doctor, because you likely have it as well.

I love my rats with all of my heart. But I also love myself, my family and others. This virus is not super deadly but it can kill people or make people very sick.

People who do not euthanize the sick rats put not only other people at risk but risk spreading it further.

Some people are saying this may have started a year ago when rats tested positive and nothing was done!

Lets just say this thing spreads all over, what will that mean for the future of our pet rats? How many more people are going to have to lose all of their rats because of it?
 

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No it was first found among hobby breeders. The breeder herself & her son were sick. She had to go to the hospital for it where she tested positive for it. They traced the rats and other breeders who had contact tested them and they were positive as well. Though I believe no one else was sick or showing any symptoms. People tested positive before any rats were ever tested. http://www.dph.illinois.gov/news/illinois-department-public-health-reports-six-cases-viral-illness-linked-ratteriesHonestly there are other viruses too out there that make it very unsafe to ever visit a pet store where rats are sold :(Ofcourse if any animal has a virus that can be spread it needs to be euthanized so it does not spread it. While some people are afraid that the CDC will just swoop in, it is pretty doubtful when just having it tested yourself. But the animal should be put down. And IMO it is far better to know then not know. Atleast if you know you can take precautions. And get yourself in to see a doctor, because you likely have it as well.I love my rats with all of my heart. But I also love myself, my family and others. This virus is not super deadly but it can kill people or make people very sick. People who do not euthanize the sick rats put not only other people at risk but risk spreading it further. Some people are saying this may have started a year ago when rats tested positive and nothing was done! Lets just say this thing spreads all over, what will that mean for the future of our pet rats? How many more people are going to have to lose all of their rats because of it?
I never said it wasn't first reported in the rats of that breeder. I said they think it came from a commercial breeding facility. All it could have taken is that breeder going to a pet store and bringing that virus back to her rattery. First reported DOESNT mean it originated there- it could have been from somewhere else but never reported or maybe no one even noticed before.

How many people ever died from that virus in the US? The only person who died most likely had a compromised immune system and didn't seek medical help for weeks after the symptoms appeared- totally preventable. Now how many people die from the flue in the US? Thousands a year! And we don't go around killing people with the flu for fear that they will affect other people, do we? And they sure will each affect dozens, hundreds...and some of those will die as a result.

So let say your rats HAVE the virus, your chance of dying from it is 1less than your chance of dying in a car crash today. Plus if your rats have it well you have already been exposed to it anyway. So I'm sorry but my personal opinion stays the same. If you love your rats don't get them tested because they will be killed. I believe people have the right to be informed of that. People have the right to know what will happen to their pets.
 

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I live in MN and was wondering what my level of concern should be. We got our rats in October. So, I assume we'd know by now if someone in our household was going to get sick. I read this today, "To date, state health officials in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin have been notified that their residents may have infected rats." https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00400.asp
 

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I love my rats with all of my heart. But I also love myself, my family and others. This virus is not super deadly but it can kill people or make people very sick.

People who do not euthanize the sick rats put not only other people at risk but risk spreading it further.

Some people are saying this may have started a year ago when rats tested positive and nothing was done!

Lets just say this thing spreads all over, what will that mean for the future of our pet rats? How many more people are going to have to lose all of their rats because of it?
I believe as a pet owner I not only have a responsibility to my rats but also to the community. Hopefully this is a problem that will be isolated and easy to contain as I too can imagine some serious and devastating outcomes for the rodent fancy.

Is the test a matter of taking in a fecal sample?

EDIT- nevermind, I see in the link that a blood sample is required.
 

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SC is a bit close for comfort since I just got some new rats. But I think I'd be sick by now since they're very kissy boys and slobber all over my hands. I'll be staying out of petstores for a while.
 

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I live in MN and was wondering what my level of concern should be. We got our rats in October. So, I assume we'd know by now if someone in our household was going to get sick. I read this today, "To date, state health officials in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin have been notified that their residents may have infected rats." https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00400.asp
Yep I popped into say that it is now being reported that those states as well may have infected :(

I believe as a pet owner I not only have a responsibility to my rats but also to the community. Hopefully this is a problem that will be isolated and easy to contain as I too can imagine some serious and devastating outcomes for the rodent fancy.

Is the test a matter of taking in a fecal sample?

EDIT- nevermind, I see in the link that a blood sample is required.
I agree. Sad that some people do not take things seriously and then we end up with major outbreaks.

in the Northeast there is also a SDA outbreak going around.

I am a breeder so I definitely am not going to sell sick rats. But even as a pet owner I would be worried.

But mostly I do think about the rats involved. How many people are going to lose ALL of their rats right now because someone didn't test or did test and did nothing about it? Even if I were a lovely person and was going to keep my rats forever, what if I died tomorrow and my rats had to be rehomed?

It is done by blood. I just got my testing kit today in the mail. The suggested method to get blood is to prick the base of the tail or to over trim a nail. My poor babies :(
 
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