Wednesday, July 20, 2005
The H5N1 Bird Virus gets a deadly cute cousin ... introducing the 'Hamster Virus':
- A pet hamster blamed for spreading a virus that killed three transplant patients in April has been traced to an Ohio distribution center that supplies hamsters to pet stores throughout the East Coast, officials said Tuesday.
State and federal investigators quarantined the distribution center Monday and plan to test the animals for the virus in an effort to trace its origin.
"We don't know whether the disease is there or not," said LeeAnne Mizer, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. "It's a potential threat."
The hamster had lymphocytic choriomeningitis, or LCMV, a virus that usually causes little or no illness in healthy people but can be deadly for those with weak immune systems.
- Federal health officials have warned about such pets transmitting viruses and urge owners to wash after handling them and wear gloves when cleaning their cages. Two years ago, pet prairie dogs infected dozens of people with monkeypox, a disease previously seen only in Africa. The outbreak was blamed on a Gambian rat that infected prairie dogs at an exotic pet dealer in Illinois.