Ohio pet center to kill 4,000 small animals to stop virus
The Associated Press
Four more hamsters from an Ohio pet distribution center have tested positive for a virus blamed in the deaths of three New England organ recipients, state officials said Thursday.
That means the center’s 4,000 small pets, including hamsters, mice and gerbils, will be killed and disposed of to prevent the virus from spreading, said LeeAnne Mizer, of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Last week, officials said a pet hamster linked to the deaths came from Mid-South Distributors of Ohio, leading to a quarantine and further testing of all the animals. The center sends hamsters and other “pocket pets” to stores throughout the East Coast.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced the hamster’s origin to the center in Norwich.
A doctor at a Rhode Island Hospital discovered the infection in April when two of her kidney transplant patients developed flu-like symptoms. One patient died. Two patients in Massachusetts – one received a liver and the other received two lungs – also died within a few weeks of their transplants, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health.
The virus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, or LCMV, is uncommon and rarely fatal to humans, usually producing flu-like symptoms. It can be dangerous to anyone with a weak immune system.
Health officials believe the organ donor caught the virus from her pet hamster, and it was transmitted to the organ recipients.