WISCONSIN (WBAY) – A rare viral illness linked to rodents has been confirmed in Wisconsin and Illinois, according to state and national health officials.
Wisconsin and Illinois Health Departments, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are investigating illnesses caused by the Seoul virus.
Health officials say it’s a type of “hantavirus” carried by Norway rats.
“We started doing some trace-back and figured out that perhaps some of these rats cases or some of these rats have come from Illinois,” said Wis. Dept. of Health Services Director of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases Stephanie Smiley.
Illinois has reported six cases of Seoul virus in people who had exposure to rats at two different ratteries–places where rats are bred.
In Wisconsin, there are two confirmed cases of Seoul virus in people who had “direct exposure with rats at a home-based rattery in northeast Wisconsin,” says a statement from DHS. “The Wisconsin rattery owner purchased rats from the two Illinois ratteries.”
Hantavirus is found worldwide and carried by rodents. People get sick by having contact with or being close to infected rodents, urine, and droppings. It can also be transmitted through the bite of an infected rat, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Smiley says one of the Wisconsin victims was hospitalized but has since been released and is recovering.
The CDC has sent an epidemiologist to Wisconsin to investigate.
Symptoms of hantavirus include fever, chills, nausea, intense headaches, pain, blurred vision, flushed face, rash, and redness of the eyes. People who believe they have contracted this virus should contact a medical professional.
“Hygienic practices when you’re handling your pet rats is probably the best way to protect yourself,” Smiley says.
DHS has these tips for avoiding diseases linked to rodents:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling your pets or areas where your pets have been.
- Keep your small pets and their cages out of kitchens or other areas where food is served.
- Pet cages, bedding, toys, feed or water containers should be cleaned away from areas where food is served or people may bathe.
- Use gloves and a face mask for cleaning.
- Avoid creating dust from fecal materials by wetting down bedding and disinfecting it.
- Do not sweep or vacuum up rodent urine, droppings, or nests as this creates airborne particles.
- Cover cuts and scratches before handling your pet.
- Don’t keep small pets in a child’s bedroom, especially children younger than five years.
- Don’t snuggle or kiss small pets, touch your mouth after handling small pets, or eat or drink around them.