Rat Hepatitis Jumps to Humans – No One Saw This Coming

A rat-shaped cloud casts a menacing cloud over North Carolina. A rat virus is casting a new shadow over human health; will it be the next pathogen to hitch a ride to the U.S.? IMAGE: The Weather Channel

Another animal virus infects people, surprising researchers

HONG KONG — Researchers have found a second patient in Hong Kong who contracted a strain of hepatitis carried by rats.

The finding surprised researchers.

“Because the rat strain is very different from the human strain, people think it wouldn’t be able to jump to humans,” said a principal researcher at Hong Kong University. “This was a clinical discovery.”

The first case came out in September. Researchers confirmed a 56-year-old man had a hepatitis strain previously known only in rats in Vietnam.

The second was found after blood samples from more than 70 patients were tested.

A 70-year-old woman was found to have been infected with the hepatitis strain.

She had been admitted to a hospital with abdominal pain, headache, anorexia and other symptoms.

Both patients were hospitalized only weeks apart and live within two miles of each other.

“They form a cluster – they’re linked in time and space,” the university researcher said.

Rats are known to transmit a number of diseases to humans, including plague, Lassa fever, and leptospirosis.


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