Following confirmed hantavirus cases last weekend, bringing the total to 15 so far in 2017, the Chilean Institute of Public Health (ISP) (computer translated) is calling on the public to prevent contact with wild-tailed mice (Oligorizomys longicaudatus) in an effort to prevent infection with the virus.

Chile map/CIA
Chile map/CIA

Health officials say about 70% of the cases arise between November and March.

The increase in cases compares with 4 in 2015 and 10 in 2016 for the same period.

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is an acute, usually severe and life-threatening infectious disease that has been present in Chile since the 1990s. Hantavirus transmission occurs through contact with the fluids of wild-tailed mice ( Oligorizomys longicaudatus), mainly through feces and urine (but also by their saliva) that they leave in scrub or enclosed spaces such as cabins and cellars.

Aerosols of this urine are inhaled by people causing the infection. The initial symptoms are similar to those of an influenza picture: fever, severe muscle aches, cough, shortness of breath, vomiting, and abdominal pain; then more serious symptoms will follow.

Health officials offer the following recommendations for prevention:

  • Do not go into thickets or forests, and only walk on enabled trails, a particularly important precaution for children.
  • Do not collect firewood or wild fruits as they may be contaminated with the urine of infected mice.
  • Store foods in airtight containers so as not to attract mice.
  • Keep trash in closed containers out of the reach of animals.
  • Camping in open and authorized places.
  • If you are going to go to a cabin that has been uninhabited, ventilate it for half an hour before settling in. Clean surfaces such as floors, tables, night tables and others with water and chlorine, using a mask.