MANITOWOC, WI (WTAQ-WLUK) — A Brown County woman has tested positive for the Seoul virus after visiting a Manitowoc woman’s rattery, who first tested positive for the virus earlier this year.
That brings the total to three people in Wisconsin with the Seoul virus.
This is the first known outbreak involving pet rats in the United States.
Shasta Brunette, of Manitowoc, and her son tested positive for the virus after acquiring six infected rats from an Illinois rattery.
Brunette has four new pet rats. Four is a far cry from the 92 she had a month ago that health officials ordered her to put down.
“It was devastating,” Brunette told FOX 11. “They were my pets. Everyone had a name. It was hard, but I did what they told me I had to do.”
Brunette found out she had infected rats after she became sick. She spent 11 days in the hospital.
“A fever I couldn’t get rid of, I ended up with a rash on my hands and feet, my blood pressure was real low so I couldn’t stand, I was real dizzy,” said Brunette.
Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong until Brunette told them she was a rat breeder. She recommended having her rats tested for viruses.
“We gave our blood, we had to wait a week to get the results and then they decided right away that they were going to put my whole rattery down,” said Brunette.
People can only get the virus from being in close proximity to infected rats.
19-year-old Pamela Boutin of Green Bay found out last month she also had the virus after visiting Brunette’s home.
“If I had anything it was a headache,” Boutin told FOX 11.
Boutin had three of her 29 rats test positive for the virus. Health officials didn’t make her put down her healthy rats, but Boutin has to keep testing them every four weeks until there is one fully-healthy round of testing.
With a testing fee of $10.75 per rat, Boutin isn’t sure how long her rattery will last.
“These are my pets, but I just can’t wrap my mind around keeping something here that is infected that could harm a child or an adult or someone that wants to adopt a sweet, friendly rat from us,” said Boutin. “It’s just not responsible.”
“People with 100 rats, you’re looking at over $1,000 every four weeks,” said Brunette. “That’s not feasible.”
Brunette says the 92 rats she lost had a value of $2,200. She doesn’t plan to ever have that many rats again, but could start another rattery if she is positive the rats are healthy.
“I’m afraid to,” said Brunette. “I don’t ever want to do this again.”
The state health department did not have anyone available for an interview for this story.
Its web site says there are 17 people in the United States who’ve tested positive for the virus, including the three from our area.