New Mexico health officials have reported the fourth fatality due to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) in 2016 in a 20-year-old woman from Torrance County.
This is the sixth hantavirus case of the year in the state.
Hantavirus infection 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 carrier for Sin Nombre virus, the hantavirus strain found in New Mexico.
“Deer mice can be found throughout New Mexico, so people everywhere in the state should take precautions,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the department’s public health veterinarian. “Cleaning up rodent droppings and nesting material in enclosed spaces can concentrate the virus in stirred up particles that can be breathed in, so people need to be very careful when cleaning up mouse infested areas. Using a disinfectant spray on areas with rodent droppings and waiting 15 or 20 minutes before cleaning will kill the virus and decrease your risk.”
The Department of Health urges healthcare 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 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.
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 and a 37-year-old woman from Sandoval County who recovered.
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