The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) announced today that a 54-year-old man from San Juan County has died of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). This is the second case of HPS confirmed in New Mexico this year. An environmental investigation has been conducted at the man’s home to help reduce the risk to others.

Counties of New Mexico
New Mexico map/US Government

Hantavirus is a severe, sometimes fatal, respiratory disease in humans 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.

“With the recent warm weather in New Mexico, people are starting spring cleaning. We urge New Mexicans to mindful when they are opening up sheds, cabins, and other buildings that have been closed up for the winter as mice and other rodents may have moved in,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the Department of Health Veterinarian. “Stirring up dust in areas of rodent infestation, including nests and droppings, can cause the virus to get into the air where the particles can be breathed in. It’s best to air out cabins and sheds before entering them and wet down droppings with a disinfectant.”

NMDOH encourages healthcare workers and the public to become familiar with the signs and 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 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

NMDOH identified a case of HPS earlier this year in a 64-year-old woman from McKinley County who recovered. In 2016, there were eight cases of HPS with five fatalities in New Mexico.