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King County, Washington health officials report investigating a hantavirus case in a teenage King County resident.

Deer mouse/CDC

This person was hospitalized in early August and is now recovering. The patient reported being exposed to a mouse infestation at his house in Issaquah and also bitten by a rodent in the woods in a residential area in Issaquah, Washington.

Public Health – Seattle & King County say since 1997, there have been six people diagnosed with Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) who were most likely infected in King County. Prior to the current case, the most recent King County case was in December 2021.

In Washington state, hantavirus is carried only by deer mice.

A person may get HPS by breathing in the virus. This can happen when droppings or urine containing the virus are stirred up and the virus is put into the air as mist or dust. Persons can also get hantavirus by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth after they have touched droppings or urine that contains the virus. HPS is not transmitted from person-to-person.

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People are usually exposed to hantavirus around their homes, cabins or sheds especially when they clean out or explore enclosed areas that have lots of mouse droppings. Mice may try to enter buildings to find shelter, so it is important to seal up homes and other structures used by people.

Early symptoms of HPS infection may look and feel like the flu or a “stomach bug” and include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, possibly with chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cough which progresses to respiratory distress and severe illness.

Symptoms typically develop within one to six weeks after rodent exposure, and although there is no specific treatment for HPS, chances for recovery are better if medical attention is sought early and the healthcare provider is given a report about environmental contact with rodents.

Zoonotic Diseases