The laboratory at Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has confirmed a recently deceased resident of Saguache County was exposed to hantavirus, according to Saguache County Public Health Director, Della Vieira, and Rio Grande County Public Health Director, Emily Brown.

Exposure to the virus is thought to have occurred in Rio Grande County. To protect confidentiality, public health officials are unable to disclose the identity of the deceased.


Hantavirus is carried by rodents, especially deer mice. The virus is found in their urine and feces, but it does not make the animal sick. In the San Luis Valley, the hantavirus is carried by deer mice, which have tawny backs, white bellies, big eyes and big ears. Typically, 10-15 percent of deer mice are infected, and it is not possible to tell if a mouse has the virus just by looking at it. 

It is believed that humans can get sick with this virus if they come in contact with contaminated dust from mice nests or droppings. You may come in contact with the dust when cleaning homes, sheds, or other enclosed areas that have been empty for a long time.

Hantavirus does not spread between humans. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) divides the symptoms of hantavirus between “early” and “late” symptoms.

Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups—thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal.

There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. About half of all HPS patients experience these symptoms.

Four to 10 days after the initial phase of illness, the late symptoms of HPS appear. These 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.

HPS has a mortality rate of 38% according to the agency. Colorado has had more confirmed cases of HPS than any other state except New Mexico.