EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - El Paso County Public Health says it has linked a rat breeding facility in the county to a multistate outbreak of the Seoul Virus.
Two people in El Paso County are confirmed to have contracted the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified pet rats as the source of the outbreak of the virus in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconson.
Symptoms of Seoul virus include fever, headache, chills, nausea, rash, inflammation or redness of the eyes, and normally begin within 1 to 2 weeks after contact with infectious material. In rare cases, infection can also lead to kidney disease and/or failure. People who have had contact with rats recently and who experience these symptoms should contact their doctor.
According to Public Health, people can become infected with Seoul virus after coming in contact with urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents. When fresh rodent urine, droppings, or nesting materials are disturbed (for example, when vacuuming or sweeping), tiny particles containing the virus get into the air. You may become infected when you breathe in these contaminated materials. You may also become infected when the urine or these other materials containing the virus get directly into a cut, broken skin, or into your eyes, nose, or mouth. In addition, people who work with live rodents can get the Seoul virus through bites from infected animals. Seoul virus is not known to be spread from person to person.
A blood test is required to confirm the diagnosis of Seoul Virus.
Public Health says the following precautions should be taken to avoid contracting this virus:
· Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling pets or areas where pets have been.
· Keep small pets and their cages out of kitchens or other areas where food is served.
· Pet cages, bedding, toys, food 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 bedding materials by wetting down with disinfectant.
· Do not sweep or vacuum up rodent urine, droppings, or nests - 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.