Many children will have a pet hamster or other type of rodent as their first pet. It is their first chance to be responsible for another living thing and learn about nature. Most children are entrusted to totally take care of the pets including cleaning out their cages. Parents should make sure that their children are careful when doing the cage maintenance. Most of the time, cleaning the cage poses no risks to human beings. However, a certain type of virus, Lymphocytic choriomeningitis could be present and cause problems.
What is Lymphocytic choriomeningitis?
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis is a viral disease that is usually carried by wild rodents, but can be transmitted to domestic rodents through exposure. It can also be spread to humans, especially children. Household pets most likely to get the disease are hamsters and mice, though gerbils and guinea pigs can also get the disease on occasion. It is spread mostly through urine, feces or saliva. Most animals don't show outward signs of a disease except for weight loss, avoidance of light, and, in the worst cases, convulsions. The disease can be chronic for up to eight months.
What are the symptoms and risks of Lymphocytic choriomeningitis in humans?
Humans often present symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, chest pain, and other flu-like symptoms not long after contact with the virus. The symptoms go away after a few days only to come back with more severe symptoms later on. These severe symptoms can include meningitis-like symptoms such as having a stiff neck or confusion. Children showing flu-like symptoms for more than a few days should see a doctor as soon as possible.
How is Lymphocytic choriomeningitis treated?
Unfortunately, there are no medications to treat this disease, only supportive care such as fluids and other medications to reduce discomfort. Most people, if healthy otherwise, should recover completely without complications.
How can Lymphocytic choriomeningitis be prevented?
Very young children are the most susceptible to this type of virus. They should not be allowed to keep pet rodents as pets or have them in their bedrooms. They should also not be present when a cage is being cleaned. Older children and adults should wear masks and gloves while cleaning out their pets' cages. Cages should be disinfected at least once a month. Children and adults who handle the pets directly should wash their hands as soon as possible. Keep pet rodents away from wild rodents, if possible. Sick pets should get an immediate check-up from a veterinarian.
Though Lymphocytic choriomeningitis can be a serious issue, especially for children, it shouldn't discourage families from having rodents as pets. But, parents should be aware of and take precautions to keep their children and their pets healthy.
For more information, contact West Lake Animal Hospital or a similar location.