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Third and Fourth Documented Hantavirus Cases in New Mexico for 2016

The New Mexico Department of Health announced today that a 30-year-old man from San Juan County has died of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). An 84-year-old man from Santa Fe County is currently hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed HPS. These are the third and fourth cases of HPS in New Mexico this year. An environmental investigation will be conducted at each patient’s home to help reduce the risk to others.

Deer mouse Image/CDC

Deer mouse
Image/CDC

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 carrier for Sin Nombre virus, the Hantavirus strain found in New Mexico.

“Cleaning up rodent droppings and nesting material in enclosed spaces can concentrate the virus in stirred up particles that can be breathed in,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the department’s public health veterinarian. “People need to be very careful when they are doing their spring cleaning and when opening up sheds, cabins, and other buildings that have been closed up for the winter. Mice and other rodents may have moved and there may be fresh droppings and urine on the floor, benches, and other objects. Airing out cabins and sheds before entering them and wetting down droppings with a disinfectant before wiping them up can reduce the likelihood of being exposed to this virus.”

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.

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 54-year-old man from Cibola County who died and a 37-year-old woman from Sandoval County who recovered. In 2015, New Mexico had one case of HPS in a 53-year-old woman from Taos County who also survived. In 2014 New Mexico identified six HPS cases with three deaths.

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