The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services confirmed the first case of Hantavirus for 2016, in a Cascade County resident. Details of the case investigation suggest that the exposure may have occurred during the cleaning of a barn.

Deer mouse/CDC
Deer mouse/CDC

This is one of 43 Hantavirus cases reported in Montana since 1993. Montana typically sees 1 to 2 cases a year. Cascade County is the lead for Hantavirus infections in Montana. Hantavirus can cause severe illness and death, with 1 in 4 of Montana cases resulting in death. Cascade City-County Health Department (CCHD) wants to remind residents how to protect themselves against infection from Hantavirus.

Cleaning activities can disturb nesting materials contaminated with dried saliva, urine, or droppings from infected deer mice. The disturbed nesting materials become airborne and the air is inhaled causing an exposure to the virus. This exposure leads to a Hantavirus infection. A person might also be infected with Hantavirus if contaminated materials are directly introduced into broken skin or into the eyes or mouth.

Symptoms can begin one to six weeks after becoming infected with the virus. The illness typically starts with 3-5 days of “flu-like” symptoms including fever, sore muscles, headaches, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Within a few days the illness rapidly progresses to severe shortness of breath.

Early diagnosis of Hantavirus and immediate medical care increase the likelihood of a full recovery. Individuals exposed to rodents or their waste who experience symptoms should immediately seek medical treatment and notify their provider that they have been around rodents or rodent wastes.