I have opened up this week (that I thought I might be out of town). My trip to help family has been postponed till warmer weather. So if you wanted to schedule on Thursday or Friday of this week or Mon-Tuesday of next week, you can do so. If you requested time on those days and I told you I wouldn’t be available, please resubmit the request.
It has been confirmed that my rats do not have the Seoul Virus!
For everyone that has been following the saga on facebook and that have been affected by the quarantine that the rats were temporarily under, you know this is good news! It means that the state doesn’t have to kill all my rats and training sessions can resume next week (I’m judging all weekend and need to clean cages tomorrow, which I had been holding off doing)! So feel free to start signing up for training sessions.
For those that have no idea what this email is talking about, here is the back story:
On Monday the 23rd of January I was contacted by the Indiana State Dept. of Health on behalf of the CDC regarding the ongoing investigation into the Seoul virus outbreak in pet rats. It said the rattery where I got my most recent batch of rats was suspected at that time of having infected rats. I immediately cancelled all classes until I knew more and posted info on the club’s facebook page and blog. It has since been proven that some of the rats from the breeder where I got mine from did test positive for the virus and the CDC ordered that all her rats be killed. 😦 They are still in the process of tracing where she got her rats and to whom she sold rats. That is how they came to my contact information. Eleven states in this area and several ratteries and pet rat owners are currently involved in the investigation.
GOOD NEWS is that the virus cannot be passed from human to human and you have to get an infected rat’s urine, droppings, saliva or blood into your system to have been infected (such as being bitten or direct contact with a rat or dirty bedding and then not washing your hands before you eat). So because of the way Barn Hunt classes are held here, the risk to people that have been here for training is miniscule to non-existent. Also, most people have minimal or no symptoms from a Seoul virus infection. Mostly just flu like symptoms if you do react to it. However, the reason CDC is so concerned is because 1-2% of people can develop hemorrhagic fever, which can be life threatening.
There has been mixed information on whether or not dogs can get it. CDC says other pets are not affected by the virus and cannot pass it to humans in any way (only rats can transmit it). The vets I spoke with from the Indiana State Board of Animal Health said (in more than one conversation) that dogs can get the virus, however, like the rats, they show zero symptoms if they do get it. So they are not affected by the virus. They are also considered a “dead-end host” because they don’t transmit the virus in any way. They simply develop antibodies, fight off the virus and are fine and virus free. They do not carry and shed the virus indefinitely like the rats do.
This virus is found in wild rats in the U.S. as well as being common in the U.K. pet rat population. But until this past December, it had not been found in the pet rat population in the U.S. There is still no definite determination on HOW the infection in pet rats was started in this country. It was brought to light when a rat breeder went to the hospital and a doctor investigated the symptoms, questioned her, and found out she had a rattery. Her rats were tested and some found to be positive. That’s where the investigation started and it has been expanded from there as they trace where she got rats and where her rats were sold. And as they test the rats in various ratteries and find rats testing positive, the investigation expands to their customer base.
Because this virus is known to be wide spread in pet rats in the U.K. they simply take precautions when cleaning cages and handling rats. At this point in time, until more rats can be tested, the CDC feels it is an issue they can contain here in the states within the pet rat population. But according to the vets I spoke with from the Indiana State Board of Animal Health on Jan 26th, the rate of positive tests in all the rats tested by CDC at that time was 65% testing positive for the virus. I don’t know for sure if that number has dropped with the expansion of the investigation and the testing of more rats, but I think it has.
Robin, the founder of Barn Hunt, is recommending that people that are handling rat tubes or the rats themselves (rat wranglers) should wear rubber gloves and wash their hands frequently. Rubber gloves and hand sanitizer is required to be provided by all Barn Hunt trial hosts. The virus is not airborne, however, sweeping/vacuuming rat rooms and cleaning cages can cause fine particles to get into the air which could potentially carry the virus from infected rats. It is NOT known if the dust from moving the straw could also cause issues due to wild rats or potentially infected pet rats but the communication I got from the CDC said they feel the risk is very very low. CDC recommends wetting the bedding before cage cleaning to reduce the dust and wearing a mask and gloves to clean cages (which I will be doing). But that wouldn’t work for straw because it could cause mold which would be a more prevalent issue. The CDC investigation just started in early Dec. so it is still in its very early stages and many things are still unknown. But they are aware of Barn Hunt and I’m sure they will be looking into any potential for transmission in the course of their investigation. The vets from the Indiana State Dept of Animal Health did not feel customers here were at risk from training here. But I continued to refrain from offering classes just to be on the safe side until my rats could be tested (blood draw).
Last week, they came and drew blood on my rats, which they sedated with isoflurane (inhaled). While most of the rats handled it just fine, we did lose three to the process when they stopped breathing and couldn’t be revived. 😦 The blood and three rats were sent to CDC last week to be tested. I just got the call that they all tested negative for the virus and training can resume!
UPDATE: The testing of the rats has been pushed back to next Thursday due to human illness. So soonest I’ll know any results will be the week of the 13th. Maybe the CDC will have a better handle on things by then. I haven’t heard much about the progress in other areas. I know several rats were supposed to be tested this week, so next week should bring more news. I’ll pass along more info when I hear about it.