The New Mexico Department of Health announced today that a 25-year-old man from McKinley County died of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). It is the fifth case of HPS in New Mexico this year. An environmental investigation will be conducted at the individual’s home to help reduce the risk to others.

Deer mouse Image/CDC
Deer mouse

Hantavirus is a deadly disease 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.

“Due to a lot of precipitation during winter and early spring, many people are seeing a larger than usual number of mice, leading to increased chance of being exposed to the virus,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the department’s public health veterinarian. “Cleaning up rodent droppings and nesting material in enclosed spaces can concentrate the virus in stirred up particles that can be breathed in, so people need to be very careful when they are cleaning and when opening up sheds, cabins, and other buildings that have been closed.”

The Department of Health urges healthcare workers and the general public to familiarize themselves with the 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.

The other cases of HPS in New Mexico earlier this year include a 30-year-old man from San Juan County who died, an 84-year-old man from Santa Fe County who recovered, a 54-year-old man from Cibola County who died and a 37-year-old woman from Sandoval County who recovered.