Hantavirus case reported in Garfield County

Staff report
SUMMIT DAILY FILE: Hantavirus is transmitted by the cute and tiny deer mouse. The sometimes fatal disease was first identified in the U.S. in 1993.

As spring cleaning continues throughout the valley, Garfield County Public Health reminds residents to be careful when cleaning. One resident has been exposed to the potentially deadly hantavirus.

“The individual who locally suffered exposure has been released from the hospital, but little else about this infection case is known at this time,” Danielle Yost, public health nurse, said in a Garfield County press release. “Public health is working to determine in which part of the county this exposure occurred; however, it is important to remember that exposure to hantavirus can happen throughout Garfield County.”

The hantavirus is a serious lung infection caused by viruses found in the saliva, urine and dropping of some rodents, including deer mice.

The virus, though rare, can be extremely dangerous, and Colorado has the second highest prevalence of any state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The mortality rate for the disease is nearly 40 percent.

“We want to emphasize that we live in a high risk area for hantavirus,” Yost said. “It is important to take the recommended precautions when cleaning, to decrease the risk of exposure.”

While the general population is at a low risk to come in contact with the disease, once one person does, it can have serious consequences.

“When people are opening up spaces that have obvious signs of mice, we tell them to stop until they can use proper cleaning techniques,” Yost said. “If you see signs of mice, avoid vacuuming and sweeping, or doing anything that stirs up dust.”

Yost recommends that if there are signs of mice, ventilate the area and always wet surfaces down with a bleach-water solution of a cup and a half of bleach in one gallon water. Wait 5 minutes before cleaning up and always use gloves to wipe up and safely discard all contaminated material.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is caused when a person breathes in dust that contains particles of rodent urine or droppings, according to the press release. It takes an average of two to four weeks for symptoms to appear, which include early flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue and muscle aches.

There is no specific cure, but people who receive early treatment have a better chance of recovery. Anyone who has had exposure to mice or mice droppings exhibiting symptoms of the illness should seek medical attention immediately.

Deer mice range from gray to reddish brown depending on age, and always have a white underbelly and a tail with clearly defined white sides. The deer mouse is found throughout North America, preferring woodlands, but also appears in desert areas.

For more information on hantavirus, contract Garfield County Public Health at 970-625-5200 or 970-945-6614.