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What Is the Seoul Virus and Why Is WHO Issuing an Alert in North America?

rats, seoul virus, cdc, who

Wisconsin was hit with eight cases of a relatively new hantavirus. The CDC released a warning and alert for what's known as the Seoul virus.


The Seoul virus is transmitted mostly by rats. It usually happens when their infected urine, feces, or dust in their bedding gets kicked up into the air and breathed in by people. But of course more direct means of transmission include rat bites or open wound exposure to infected excretions. Despite the virus's name, it's actually found globally – usually carried by pet and wild Norway and black rat species.

The good news is that the World Health Organization firmly states that you can't infect other people with the Seoul virus if you have it. The bad news is – they don't have an effective treatment yet.

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The CDC lists some symptoms of the Seoul virus as:

  • Headaches
  • Fevers
  • Pain in the back or abdomen
  • Getting the chills
  • Nausea
  • Experiencing blurry vision
  • Redness in the face
  • Eye inflammation or redness
  • Rashes

In severe cases, an infection with the Seoul virus can cause renal failure and bleeding. But only up to 2 percent of infected people die. The CDC is issuing a warning because there have been 11 current cases of the Seoul virus in the United States, and more cases in Canada. They've tracked the origin of the outbreak from rat shipments from overseas.

The CDC advises that if you have a pet rat, you should get it tested for the virus. Seoul virus symptoms usually don't show for an average of two to eight weeks. It's best that you get tested for the virus if you're routinely exposed to rats.

The Seoul virus has also been detected in Illinois, Minnesota, and possibly in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, and many other states mostly in the midwest or near the midwest, excluding Kansas. If you live in one of these states, the best preventative measure is to stay away from locations where rats frequent and to keep your home rat-proof.