The lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) associated with three transplant deaths in Rhode Island has been found in several rodents tested at a pet distribution center near Zanesville, Ohio. Operated by Midsouth Distributors (Scott, Ark.) the facility distributes rodents to pet stores including Petsmart and Petco. Currently under quarantine, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Agriculture said in a local news report that they will be working with the company to depopulate the facility as quickly as possible.
LCMV is a rodent-borne viral infectious disease that presents as aseptic meningitis, encephalitis or meningoencephalitis, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The investigation was initiated after a CDC investigation into three organ recipient deaths. The organ donor was linked to LCMV through a black bear pet hamster. Humans typically show flu-like symptoms, but organ recipients don’t have the ability to fight the disease due to suppressed immunity. The CDC traced the organ donor’s pet to the Zanesville distribution facility. The center is used to reorganize and transfer rodents into smaller shipments to the East Coast. It carries an average inventory of 3,500 to 4,500 animals, which include rats, hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, and other so-called “pocket pets.”