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February 16, 2017

Pennsylvania health officials find pet rat infected with Seoul virus

The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced Thursday that a pet rat from a home-based breeding facility tested positive for Seoul virus, a type of hantavirus that has claimed 13 lives in a multistate outbreak.

Health officials said the infected rat was purchased at a Tennessee breeding facility with confirmed Seoul virus.

As a result of the discovery in Pennsylvania, all of the remaining rats at the facility were humanely euthanized to prevent further spread of the disease.

“We are working very closely with the CDC to monitor any Seoul virus activity and prevent further exposure,” Secretary Murphy said. “If you have pet rats you feel could be infected, or if you or your loved ones have been in contact with pet rats and have any symptoms of Seoul virus, you should contact the department at 1-877-PA-HEALTH. While this virus is spread only through infected rats, the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians is our priority.”

Individuals infected with Seoul virus tend to have mild symptoms or none at all, while others develop a form of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS), whose symptoms can include low blood pressure, acute shock and acute kidney failure.

The virus, found worldwide, is carried most often by the brown or Norway rat. Human beings can become infected with the virus if they come into contact with the urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents. There currently is no effective treatment for the virus. 

More information about Seoul virus and the prevention efforts of state health departments can be found at an FAQ page from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

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