MONUMENT, Colo. –
El Paso County Health Department confirmed earlier this month that a local rat breeding facility is connected to a multi-state outbreak of the Seoul virus. News 5 spoke with the breeder in Monument, who tested positive for the virus herself, about the fate of her pet rats.
“Until they’ve wrapped their little tail around your heart, you don’t even understand what it’s like,” owner Linda Adams said about rat ownership. “It’s really equivalent to the love you have for the cat or your dog, and maybe even a little bit more.”
Adams has about 100 rats in her garage. She says that’s more than usual since she hasn’t been able to adopt any out. She says one rat that came from a facility in Illinois linked to the Seoul virus outbreak tested positive for the virus. Now her whole population has been exposed, and because of the risk to humans, the health department has ordered that they be euthanized.
Despite testing positive for the virus, Linda was asymptomatic.
“I never felt anything, so it’s a little harder to convince me that it’s really dangerous,” she said. “But I do respect that.”
Adams said she doesn’t want anyone to get sick, but she wishes blood testing each rat for the virus were an option. El Paso County Health Department tells News 5 they’re working with the state health department to schedule a team of professionals to humanely euthanize the rats. Adams says that means lethal injection.
“They want me to hold the rats down,” she said. “I don’t even want to watch the rat being held down really. I think I can get through that, but psychologically it’s just going to be scarring. I don’t know why they can’t just sedate the rat, and then put it to sleep like a veterinarian.”
El Paso County Health Department said in a statement, “While we sympathize with the owner, we have to act quickly to limit and stop the spread of the virus beyond the infected rattery and to additional people.”
Adams is hoping to convince them to let her keep about 15 of the rats in a lifetime quarantine, never to contact other humans or rats.
“Going from 100 friends and you have to cut that list down to 15, it’s kind of hard to decide who lives and who dies,” she said.
Adams also gave the health department a list of people that have adopted rats from her. The CDC is assisting health officials in nine states to investigate this outbreak. So far 16 people have been infected, and none have died. Symptoms are flu-like and can only be spread from rat to rat or from rat to human. There is no risk of the virus spreading from human to human.