Multi-state outbreak of rare virus spread by pet rats includes alert for Michigan

Posted at 8:13 AM, Jan 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-27 09:54:26-05

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are assisting health officials in 12 states to investigate an outbreak of Seoul virus. So far eight people have been infected in Illinois and Wisconsin.

State and local health officials say potentially infected rodents may have been sold or distributed in Michigan. Other states included in the investigation are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin.

Experts say this is the first known outbreak associated with pet rats in the United States. Seoul virus is not commonly found here in the U.S., though there have been several reported outbreaks in wild rats.

People can become infected when they come into contact with body fluids from infected rats or if they are bitten by them. The virus is not spread between people and cannot be transmitted to or from other types of pets. Rats infected with Seoul virus do not usually appear sick.

Symptoms of Seoul virus may include fever, severe headache, back and abdominal pain, chills, blurred vision, redness of the eyes, or rash. In rare cases infection can also lead to acute renal disease. Not all people infected with the virus experience symptoms.

Anyone concerned they have purchased or come in contact with rats from an affected breeder should contact their local or state health departments.