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Virus carried by pet rats found in Pennsylvania

| Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, 1:27 p.m.
Pet rats have been linked to an outbreak of the unusual Seoul virus.
Pet rats have been linked to an outbreak of the unusual Seoul virus.

A pet rat in a Pennsylvania home-based breeding facility has tested positive for the unusual Seoul virus, state health officials said Thursday.

An outbreak of the virus among 13 people in at least eight states is under investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No human infections of the virus, which can produce flu-like symptoms and lead to renal failure, have been confirmed in Pennsylvania, the state health department said.

Officials said the infected Pennsylvania rat was purchased from a Tennessee breeding facility with confirmed Seoul virus infections. The remaining rats in the Pennsylvania facility were humanely euthanized to prevent further spread of the disease, the health department said.

“We are working very closely with the CDC to monitor any Seoul virus activity and prevent further exposure,” said Karen Murphy, state Health secretary. “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.”

The Seoul virus is a type of hantavirus, a respiratory infection spread in rodent droppings. Eight people in Illinois and Wisconsin have been diagnosed, and some were sick enough to need hospital care, the CDC has said.

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