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Seoul Virus: Pet Rats Linked To Illinois, Wisconsin Rare Virus Outbreak

Update Date: Jan 23, 2017 09:00 AM EST

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that pet rats have been linked to a recent outbreak of Seoul virus infections in Illinois and Wisconsin.

The said virus has infected eight people who were working in several rat-breeding facilities in the two states. Though Seoul virus is not commonly found in the United States, there have been several outbreaks in wild rats. However, this is the first known outbreak linked to pet rats, the CDC said in a press release.

CDC is currently working with the Illinois Department of Health and the Wisconsin Department of Health services to conduct a probe into the incident.

"Seoul virus is not known to be transmitted from person to person. Therefore, the general public is at extremely low risk," Dr. Nirav D. Shah, IDPH Director, said in a press release.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we want to let the public know in the event they have recently purchased rats from an affected facility and become ill," he added.

What Is The Seoul Virus?

Seoul virus, a type of hantavirus, is usually carried only by brown or Norway rats. Only a few cases of this virus have been reported in the country. Typical symptoms of infection may include fever, chills, nausea, abdominal pain, back pain, blurred vision, rash and redness of the eyes.

In severe cases, however, it may lead to acute renal disease. Another complication that might arise is pulmonary hantavirus syndrome which begins with severe aches, fever, and fatigue, which can turn fatal.

The virus symptoms often develop within one to two weeks after contact, but it can take up to eight weeks to appear. CDC adds that people can become infected with the virus through contact with droppings, saliva, and urine of infected rats. People can also get infected through aerosolization when they inhale or breathe contaminated materials.

How Is It Treated?

Supportive care is given to patients infected with Seoul virus. This includes fluid therapy to prevent dehydration and to maintain blood pressure, blood volume and electrolyte balance.

For secondary infections, an oxygen mask may provide relief and in people who developed an acute renal disease, dialysis may be required. An antiviral drug, Ribavirin, has been shown to reduce the severity of the illness related to the virus.

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