For Immediate Release
Contact: Phil Ulibarri
775.328.2414 or 775.772.1659
RENO, NV – A south Reno resident is Washoe County’s first case of hantavirus since 2006 a local health official announced today. The case is one of about 728 hantavirus cases ever recorded in the United States since it was identified in the Four Corners area of the United States Southwest in 1993.
“Hantavirus is transmitted by rodents, most likely the common deer mouse in our area,” said Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick. “People should be very cautious when cleaning, working, or recreating in areas where mouse droppings and/or urine may have collected and become aerosolized by cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming, or tramping. It’s when those particles are breathed in that people are at risk for contracting the virus,” Dick said. Campers, hunters, and hikers may also be at risk if they are in areas where heavy rodent infestation is common, such as old cabins, barns, sheds and campsites. People pulling out holiday decorations from garages and storage units may also find signs of rodent activity, and should take precautions. More information can be found at www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/pdf/prevent-hps.pdf.
According to Dick, there are specific guidelines to follow when cleaning in areas with mouse activity:
- Always spray the area being cleaned with a disinfectant and let it set for five minutes before starting to work;
- Wear protective clothing like gloves and a face mask to keep from touching and breathing in viral particles;
- Set out traps to kill mice and other rodents;
- Double-bag dead rodents and rodent waste in plastic sacks before disposing them in the garbage; and,
- Identify and plug openings that may allow rodents entry. A deer mouse can fit through an opening the size of a nickel. Plug holes using steel wool and put caulk around the steel wool to keep in in place.
Hantavirus is extremely rare, and can be deadly. Statistics show a 38% case fatality rate for humans infected by the disease which affects the lungs. Flu-like symptoms that can appear one to eight weeks after exposure can include muscle aches, particularly in the large muscle groups of the thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. Later symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath, with the sensation of, as one survivor put it, a “…tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face” as the lungs fill with fluid. Anyone with these symptoms after coming in contact with deer mice and their waste should seek medical attention immediately. Although there is no specific treatment, cure, or vaccine for hantavirus infection, if infected individuals are recognized early and receive medical care in an intensive care unit, they may do better.
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