The Seoul Hantavirus
Edited Update: We are virus free! Our tests came back from Idexx and we were negative for both Hantavirus & Sendai! I worked with Forestville Animal Hospital http://www.forestvilleanimalhospital.com/ They were very helpful! They do treat rats and if anyone is looking for a vet I do recommend them.
**************************************************** This is long but important information!
So I wanted to share some information on the Seoul Hantavirus that is going around. There is a lot of misinformation out there so I wanted to make sure everyone knew what was going on.
First ignore all of the news reporting on this. The media likes to exploit things and they make crap up. They do not care about the truth. All of the reports I have read have been wrong and scare tactics against rats. Do not be fooled by this. I know it sucks because our non rat loving family/friends see this and freak out. I would suggest giving them the real info and laughing off the media as if they ever tell the truth.
I am (as of writing this) still temporarily closed and will be until the investigation is over. They keep adding new states and until we know how wide spread it is, I feel it is important and responsible to keep things closed. Even if I am not infected I could not in good faith let any rats be returned to me because I couldn’t for sure say they were not exposed. So I do not feel it is safe to sell. I am also closed as a united sign with my fellow breeders who are losing their rats and having to be in the middle of this. This is a heart breaking time and more than ever we need to be a united force as a community supporting one another.
I do not feel I have been touched by this or that I have infected rats. I have not brought in new rats for quite a while past the expected time frame of this (I hope) and the rats I have brought did not come from (as we know now) infected ratteries. But I have had my rats tested and am expecting the results back soon! I just got my invoice from the company so I am hoping the vet will contact me with the results Monday.
Is keeping pet rats dangerous?
The very first thing I want to say is that while this is something serious and we should pay attention & be aware of it. This is not really a big scary concern. Out of everyone who tested positive by far most did not show any symptoms at all. The ones who did had flu like symptoms. No one has died from this. If you do have a compromised immune system it could put you at greater risk and there is a very small chance of developing Hemorrhagic fever.
From the CDC’s website: People that become infected with this virus often exhibit relatively mild or no disease but some will develop a form of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) with death in approximately 1-2% of cases (1 to 2 persons in 100 people).
The seoul virus is not common in pet rats. This is something carried among wild rats. That is a huge difference. All wild animals carry the risk of disease.
And yes even our pets can be infected by viruses at times and put us at risk. It is rare but possible. But rats are not the only pet at risk. Pet dogs & cats have just as much of a chance at putting us at risk.
Most only affect the animals. Think of parvo which is easily spread and can be deadly for dogs and cats. My sister actually once bought a puppy that was infected with parvo & died shortly after. This actually happens far too often sadly. As well as things like feline leukemia or kennel cough.
Then we have illnesses that can be spread from pet to people, such as the recent Seoul Hantavirus. Yet it is very rare and mostly found in wild animals. You could compare it to rabies in that we really do not expect our puppies & kitties to carry it but it is possible for them to catch it from a wild animal. You may be thinking well we get our dogs/cats vaccinations to prevent it. And yes we do, but rabies can be quite deadly. And there is more likely chance for people to catch it.
There are also things like cat scratch fever or toxoplasmosis from cats.
People still have pet cats and dogs without concern. In the US we are rarely at risk of danger from our pets. But yes be smart. Practice safe hygiene. Don’t handle wild animals or let your pets do so. If you are bit or scratched clean it well and make sure it is healing. If you develop flu like symptoms go to the doctor.
My point is keeping pet rats is not dangerous.
Ok so what is the Seoul Hantavirus?
The virus is spread by rats to people. People can not infect other people. Some other animals can become infected but can not be carriers as well. In most cases it is not fatal & most people do not even show any signs or symptoms of having it. But it can in rare cases (1-2%) cause Hemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal. If you become infected you will carry the antibodies for life and can not get infected again- like chicken pox. This does mean though that if you have caught the virus from wild rats or other rats in your lifetime you will test positive. They have said that they can tell if you recently caught it or if it is older. But there is some fear that if you test positive even if it was not recently it can mean your rats are at risk to be euthanized. People who work where wild rats may be like out in nature, barns, etc... may have it.
There is a vaccine in Asia, but as of now there is none in the US or Europe approved to treat our strains.
Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups—thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal.
There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. About half of all HPS patients experience these symptoms.
Late symptoms: lungs fill with fluid, shortness of breath
Four to 10 days after the initial phase of illness, the late symptoms of HPS appear. These include coughing and shortness of breath, with the sensation of, as one survivor put it, a "...tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face" as the lungs fill with fluid.
Rats infected do not become sick. They show no symptoms at all. They are merely carriers.
It can be spread through saliva, urine, feces and particles can be kicked up into the air as well.