The New Mexico Department of Health announced today that a 50-year-old man from San Juan County is hospitalized with laboratory confirmed Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). This is the fourth case of Hantavirus in New Mexico this year. An environmental investigation will be conducted at the home of the patient to help reduce the risk to others.

Deer mouse Image/CDC
Deer mouse

“This case is another reminder that Hantavirus is present in deer mice in New Mexico,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “I want all New Mexicans to make sure they follow our prevention guidelines to keep themselves and their families safe from Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome.”

Hantavirus is a deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings or saliva. People can contract the disease when they breathe in aerosolized virus. The deer mouse is the main reservoir for Sin Nombre virus, the Hantavirus strain found in New Mexico.

“The best defense against Hantavirus is to avoid disturbing areas of rodent infestation, including nests and droppings,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the Department’s public health veterinarian. “It’s best to air out cabins and sheds before entering them and wet down droppings with a disinfectant. As the weather gets colder rodents will try to move indoors for shelter and food, so sealing up small holes and cracks in residential buildings is very important to prevent mice from getting inside.”

The Department of Health urges health-care workers and the general public to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of Hantavirus. Early symptoms of Hantavirus infection include fever and muscle aches, possibly with chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, 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.

This is the 4th case of Hantavirus in New Mexico this year. Other cases this year include a fatal case in a 67 year-old woman from San Juan County, a fatal case in a 59 year-old man from McKinley County, and a case in a 32 year-old woman from San Juan County who survived.

Since it was first discovered in 1993, New Mexico has reported a total of 98 lab-confirmed Hantavirus cases with 41 deaths, the highest number of cases for any state in the nation. Nationally, since 1993, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a total of 639 cases with a fatality rate of 36 percent.