A recent diagnosis of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in a local resident has prompted the City’s departments of Public Health and Environmental Health to remind area residents to take precautions to prevent exposure to the virus that causes HPS at their places of residence, work and recreation. Hantavirus is an infection of the lungs caused by several different strains of the virus found in rodents.
While this patient has improved, HPS can be a very serious illness. The exact source of this individual’s infection is not known. However, health officials are emphasizing that HPS can be contracted anywhere in the Texas Panhandle. Barns, outbuildings, sheds or any environments where rodents are living are the most common places for human exposure. The host of the virus is the deer mouse, (Peromyscus maniculatus), which lives in the western and central US and Canada, including the Texas Panhandle.
Human infection comes from breathing in the virus from dried rodent urine, droppings, nesting material and saliva. When these substances are stirred up by vacuuming, sweeping or similar activity, tiny droplets or particles containing the virus get into the air and can be inhaled.
The U.S. type of hantavirus has not been shown to transmit from one person to another. You cannot get the virus from close contact with a person who has HPS or from a health care worker who has treated someone with the disease. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page .
Potential Risk Activities for HPS
- Opening or cleaning cabins, sheds and outbuildings, including barns, garages and storage facilities that have been closed is a potential risk for hantavirus infections, especially in rural settings.
- Cleaning in and around your own home can put you at risk if rodents are present.
- Construction, utility and pest control workers can be exposed when they work in crawl spaces, under houses, or in vacant buildings that may have a rodent population.
- Campers and hikers can also be exposed when they use infested trail shelters or camp in other rodent habitats.
HPS patients experience the following symptoms:
- Fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups—thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders
- Abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain