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Arenavirus Infection in Hamsters

Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus in Hamsters

The arenavirus usually infects wild mice and other rodents, but it does rarely affect hamsters. Fortunately, it does not usually make them sick and eventually resolves on its own. Sick hamsters, however, can pass the virus onto humans, causing flu-like symptoms and inflammation of the bran and the spinal cord. Due to its highly contagious nature, hamsters with arenavirus should be handled with utmost caution.

Symptoms

Although many hamsters with arenavirus have no adverse reactions, some do. The following are good indicators of an arenavirus infection:

  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Nervous system symptoms (e.g., convulsions, spasms)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (sometimes can be felt by palpation)
  • Females may have decreased reproductive capacity or even abort during pregnancy

Causes

Arenavirus, otherwise known as Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, is spread by contact with an infected rodent's urine or saliva, or by tiny droplets spread when sick rodents sneeze or cough. Moreover, an infected pregnant hamster can pass it to her fetuses in the womb.

Diagnosis

Arenavirus can be detected via laboratory tests and blood samples. Otherwise, the diagnosis is confirmed by doing a post-mortem examination.

 
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