What is already known about this topic? Seoul virus, a type of hantavirus, is carried by Norway rats. Humans become infected through contact with virus shed in rat urine or droppings, or inhalation of virus particles in dust from contaminated bedding. Infected rats do not develop disease, but humans can experience symptoms ranging from mild influenza-like illness to severe disease with kidney failure and death. Although infections have been previously reported in humans after contact with wild rats, Seoul virus infections had not been reported in pet rats in the United States or Canada. What is added by this report? This report describes the first known outbreak of Seoul virus infections in humans from contact with pet rats in the United States and Canada. This investigation identified 31 U.S. facilities with human and/or rat Seoul virus infections in 11 states, including six that exchanged rats with Canadian ratteries. Seventeen persons had recent infection with Seoul virus, eight became ill, and three were hospitalized and recovered. What are the implications for public health practice? Human hantavirus infections are reportable to state or local health departments in the United States. Clinicians should consider Seoul virus infection in patients with a history of rat contact and compatible symptoms. Pet rat owners and breeders should also be aware of Seoul virus and should practice good hand hygiene and safe rodent handling to prevent infection.
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