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Hantavirus Reported in Kane County

April 07
23:46 2014

An individual from Kane County has been hospitalized with Hantavirus, as the Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD) reports the state’s first case of the infection for the year.

Hantavirus is rare, but not unheard of, in northern Arizona and southern Utah. Last year, two incidences of Hantavirus were reported in Coconino County, Arizona, with one leading to the death of a Flagstaff woman. In southern Utah, the last case was reported four years ago in Iron County.
hantavirus mouse

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a rare but potentially fatal disease spread by infected rodent droppings. It is more common in rural areas.

HPS is transmitted to people that are exposed to infected urine, droppings or saliva of wild mice, primarily deer mice. Anyone who comes into contact with rodents that carry Hantavirus is at risk. The illness is not spread from person to person.

HPS starts with fever, headache and muscle aches, and progresses rapidly to severe difficulty in breathing and, in some cases, death.

There is no anti-virus or cure for the disease. Treatment includes intensive hospital care to treat the respiratory distress.

Spring and Summer are the Seasons for HPS

“This time of year, a lot of people start spring cleaning in places where rodent droppings are found; such as sheds, barns, and cabins. If Hantavirus is present, it can be inhaled and cause respiratory illness within a few weeks.”–Dr. David Blodgett, SWUPHD Health Officer

People are usually exposed to the virus by breathing contaminated dust while cleaning up after rodents or by being in rodent-infested environments on a regular basis.

Hantavirus Prevention

Hantavirus infection can be prevented by avoiding contact with rodents and where they live. If avoiding rodents is not an option, health officials recommend wearing a mask, glasses and rubber gloves when cleaning up rodent urine and droppings. Use bleach and water to disinfect.

Other prevention tips include:

  •  Seal openings in structures to keep mice out
  • Set mouse traps to kill the mice that get in
  • Eliminate potential rodent residences outside by removing outdoor clutter and by moving woodpiles as far away from the house as possible
  •  Do not feed the rodents–do not leave food out
  • Dispose of garbage in lid-covered trash cans
  •  Do not leave pet food in dishes
  •  Before cleaning a mouse-infested area, let it air out for at least 30 minutes by opening windows and doors
  •  Do not stir up dust by vacuuming or sweeping
  •  Spray droppings with disinfectant and wipe up with disposable paper towels
  • Wear gloves when cleaning up after mice, handling nests or disposing of dead mice
  •  Seal all materials, droppings or nests in double plastic bags and dispose of them in the trash

In Arizona, there have been 23 confirmed Hantavirus cases since 2006, 11 of which have resulted in death. In Utah, there have been 29 documented cases from 1991 to date.

For more information on HPS, visit the Centers for Disease Control website.

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