Seoul virus: Rat breeding facility in El Paso County linked to multi-state outbreak

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. – A rat breeding facility in El Paso County is linked to a multi-state outbreak of the Seoul virus, according to El Paso County Public Health officials.

Two people in the county were also confirmed to be carrying the disease, health officials said Thursday.

Fever, headache, chills, nausea, rash, inflammation or redness of the eyes are some of the symptoms of the Seoul virus. Signs of the symptoms normally begin within one to two weeks after contact, health officials said. In rare cases, infection can also lead to kidney disease and/or failure. The majority of infections are usually moderate, and some people do not experience any symptoms, health officials added.

Those who have had contact with rats recently, and who experience these symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately.

People can become infected with the 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, according to health officials. 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.

The Seoul virus is not known to spread from person to person.

A blood test is enough to confirm if someone is infected with the virus.

The El Paso County Public Health Department recommends you take the following steps to avoid getting infected with the disease: 

  • 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.

Colorado is one of 12 states under investigation by the Centers for Disease Control after rodents potentially carrying the virus were distributed across the nation. 

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