An outbreak of a rare virus has hit at least eight people who breed pet rats, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Seoul virus is a type of hantavirus and officials say they have never seen cases in the US associated with pet rats before, CNN reports. The eight cases were detected in Wisconsin and Illinois. CDC officials say anyone who recently bought a pet rat in those states and experiences Seoul virus symptoms. which can include "fever, severe headache, back and abdominal pain, chills, blurred vision, redness of the eyes, or rash," should contact a health care provider.
The CDC says they suspected the outbreak was Seoul virus after a home-based rodent breeder in Wisconsin became sick in December, NBC reports. That person and a family member have now recovered from the virus, which is milder than other types of hantavirus and doesn't always result in symptoms, though it can still cause kidney failure in rare cases. Infected rats do not show symptoms from the virus. People become infected when they breathe in dust from infected rat droppings or urine, but the virus cannot be transmitted human-to-human. The CDC says that to reduce the risk, anybody dealing with rats should follow proper procedures including hand-washing and cleaning rodent cages outside if possible.