Sept. 28 (UPI) -- The world's first human case of rat disease has been diagnosed in China.
A 56-year-old man in Hong Kong is the first person worldwide to have a certain strain of hepatitis E that was previously found only in rats.
"Previous laboratory experiments have found that rat hepatitis E virus cannot be transmitted to monkeys, and human hepatitis A virus cannot be transmitted to rats," Dr. Siddharth Sridhar, clinical assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong, said.
Officials said the man's health improved after the condition was identified and he received antiviral treatment.
"The patient is cured, as of this stage we can no longer detect the virus in any clinical specimen," Sridhar said.
The man lives in public housing in eastern Kowloon after, and officials said he went through liver transplant surgery in May and was tested for recurring liver problems.
Professor Yuen Kwok-yung said the case is a "wake-up call" to improve public hygiene and decrease rat breeding.
"Back alleys now are very dirty with lots of rubbish," Yuen said. "You can see rats that are bigger than cats."
The human strain of hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by an infection with a virus that kills an estimated 20 million people a year worldwide, the World Health Organization said.
In 2015, human hepatitis E killed 44,000 people.