The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS)is reporting a case of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) in a resident of the Golden Crescent region along the central Texas coast. This is the fifth case of hantavirus this year in the state.
Hantavirus is carried by certain species of rats and mice that shed the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva. The virus can be transmitted to people by stirring up nesting materials or contaminated dust, allowing the virus to be breathed in by humans. Cases have been linked to cleaning out buildings where rodents live and working in dusty environments like ranches and oilfields.
Health officials remind the public to protect themselves from hantavirus with the following recommendations: Seal openings that may allow rats and mice to enter homes and workplaces; Remove brush, woodpiles, trash and other items that may attract rats and mice; Tightly close garbage cans, pet food containers and other food sources; Wear protective gloves when handling dead mice and rats or cleaning up nesting areas, urine or droppings; Before cleaning up nests or droppings indoors, open windows and doors to ventilate the area for at least 30 minutes; Do not stir up nests by sweeping or vacuuming. Dampen areas with dead rodents, nests, urine and droppings before cleanup with a 1:10 bleach solution or other disinfectant and if dust will be stirred up, DSHS recommends using goggles and a HEPA or N-95 mask.
Early symptoms of hantavirus infection include fatigue, fever and muscle aches that may be accompanied by headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Later symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath. If hantavirus is suspected, people should contact their health care provider immediately and mention any potential exposure to rodents, their nests or their waste.
A total of 43 HPS cases have been confirmed in Texas since 1993, the first year the disease was detected. Of those, 14 were fatal.