Pet rats in Illinois, Wisconsin linked to Seoul virus outbreak, CDC says
By Susan Scutti, CNN
Updated 5:11 PM ET, Fri January 20, 2017
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.
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.