The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) announced today a 59-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman, both from McKinley County, have been confirmed to have hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). These are the seventh and eighth cases of HPS in New Mexico in 2016. Both patients are hospitalized.
Hantavirus infection is a deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings or saliva. People contract hantavirus by inhaling the virus, often when they are cleaning up rodent droppings and nesting materials. The deer mouse is the main carrier for Sin Nombre virus, the hantavirus strain found in New Mexico.
“As it starts to get cold in the fall, deer mice try and enter our homes for both food and shelter,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the Department’s public health veterinarian. “Deer mice can get through a hole the size of a dime so it is important to look around your home and close up any openings that the mice can use to get inside.”
The Department of Health urges both the public and healthcare workers to get to know the symptoms of hantavirus. Early symptoms of hantavirus include fever and muscle aches, possibly with chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain and cough which progresses to respiratory distress. These symptoms develop within one to six weeks after rodent exposure. Although there is no specific treatment for HPS, chances for recovery are better if medical attention is sought early.
Important steps to follow to prevent contracting hantavirus include:
- Air out closed-up buildings before entering.
- Trap mice until they are all gone.
- Clean up nests and droppings using a disinfectant.
- Don’t sweep up rodent droppings into the air where they can be inhaled.
- Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
- Get rid of trash and junk piles.
- Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where mice can get to it.
The other cases of HPS in New Mexico earlier this year include a 25-year-old man from McKinley County who died, a 30-year-old man from San Juan County who died, an 84-year-old man from Santa Fe County who recovered, a 54-year-old man from Cibola County who died, a 37-year-old woman from Sandoval County who recovered, and a 20-year-old woman from Torrance County who died.