Dr. Julia Whittington, who is a doctor for pet rats, birds, bunnies, and more when she is not leading the Wildlife Medical Clinic, shares about the recent Seoul virus outbreak linked to pet rats and what rat owners should know.
* More than half a million U.S. households have pet rats, which make cute, clean, and friendly pets.
* Unfortunately, at the end of last year, a person in Wisconsin was sickened by Seoul virus, a type of virus carried by rats. It turns out that in this case—the first such case reported in the U.S.—the rat that transmitted the infection was a pet rat, not a wild rat.
* Experts from our college, including Dr. Whittington, have been assisting the Illinois Public Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control in investigating and managing two Illinois rat-breeding facilities that had supplied rats to the Wisconsin location where the person was infected.
* There is no reason for most people to be alarmed about this situation. Seoul virus is not spread person to person, and so far of the 10 people connected with the ratteries who tested positive for exposure to the virus, only 2 have actually been sickened by the infection, and both of them recovered.
* What should rat owners do?
- People who received a rat from the two Illinois rat facilities have been alerted to the potential for exposure, and they have options for testing.
- People with rats that have not been notified can choose to have their pet tested. Contact your local health department for more information about the cost and where to go for the test.
- Follow good handling practices: You should never snuggle or kiss small pets, touch your mouth after handling small pets, or eat or drink around them.
- There are guidelines for the proper way to clean your rat’s cage of urine and droppings.