At the moment, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with 12 states are investigating the circumstances in which multiple people got infected with the Seoul virus while handling rodents. So far, the virus spread to eight people in Wisconsin and Illinois. These cases shortly followed reports of two rat handlers who got infected while operating a home-based rat-breeding facility in Wisconsin. However, only one of the individuals was hospitalized due to health complications.
According to the official reports, the handlers purchased the infected rodents from animal farm suppliers in Wisconsin and Illinois. However, only two Illinois rat-breeding facilities had representatives infected with the virus. Nevertheless, all six ratteries have recovered since then.
Health experts warn that nesting materials and fresh rat urine stirred up by sweeping or vacuuming can launch tiny particles containing the virus upward, causing the Seoul virus to become airborne, spreading the disease not only to the rodents but to their handlers just as easily.
In order to contain the outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials recommend handlers who came in contact with rats or other rodents to get tested for the Seoul virus if they display sign of illness.
Symptoms of the disease include blurred vision, fever, nausea, headache, chills, rash, abdominal and back pain, inflammation or redness of the eyes, and flushing of the face. CDC investigators revealed that some infected individuals could have also been distributed in Indiana, Arkansas, Illinois, Alabama, South Carolina, Colorado, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Tennessee, Minnesota, Utah, and Michigan. However, reports of the disease were only consistent with Wisconsin and Illinois so far.
It is uncommon for people to get infected with the Seoul virus. However, it is highly possible to get sick in several instances, where handlers come in contact with infectious fluids, such as saliva, blood, and urine, or are bitten by the rodents. The virus is generally carried by wild Norway rats which first arrived in the U.S. during the late 1700s. While most urban centers are packed with these rodents, most infections among human individuals took place in Asia. For the time being, however, the CDC recommends people who are looking to purchase a pet rat to wait until the investigation is concluded.
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