Colorado state health officials, in coordination with San Juan Basin Health  are currently investigating a suspect case of Hantavirus in a La Plata County resident. Laboratory samples are being sent to the CDPHE lab for testing.

Deer mouse/CDC
Deer mouse/CDC

There has been one confirmed case of Hantavirus in the state this year. CDPHE has documented more than 90 cases of Hantavirus since it began tracking the disease in 1993. More than forty percent of these individuals died from the infection.

“Be particularly careful where there is evidence that mice have been in and around buildings or wood or junk piles,” said Dr. Jennifer House, state public health veterinarian at the department. “An increase in the number of mice around a home often precedes a person getting the disease.”

Ample vegetation for rodents to eat can attract deer mice and other rodent populations. An increase in rodents can result in increased exposure to diseases rodents carry. Early spring and summer are when most human cases occur, but some people have been infected at other times of the year. People need to take precautions to prevent exposure to hantavirus before they begin cleaning structures that have evidence of rodent activity.

Dr. House advised Coloradans to ventilate structures before cleaning and spray any accumulation of dust, dirt and mouse droppings with a mixture of bleach and water.

“Never vacuum or sweep an area where a rodent infestation has been,” she emphasized. “If you have deer mice around your home, assume there is some risk of exposure to this virus. The more mice, the greater the risk. Some people have been infected by handling a single mouse.”

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  1. Rodent-proof buildings by plugging holes or other mouse entryways. Conduct year-round rodent control, or hire a professional exterminator.
  2. Keep indoor areas clean, especially kitchens. Dispose of garbage in sealed containers.
  3. Store food in rodent-proof containers, including food for pets, livestock and birds.
  4. Remove rodent hiding places near your home, such as wood, junk and brush piles. Store firewood at least 100 feet from your house. Keep vegetation around the house well-trimmed.

Hantavirus normally begins with fever, body aches, headache and vomiting. The symptoms begin from one to six weeks after exposure. At first there are no respiratory symptoms. However, the illness can quickly progress to respiratory distress within one to five days. People may have a dry cough and difficulty breathing caused by the lungs filling with fluid. Because no effective treatment exists prevention is key.