In a follow-up to the hantavirus situation in King County, Washington, public health officials announced today they are investigating  a new suspected case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in an Issaquah woman in her 50’s. She is currently hospitalized with symptoms consistent with HPS.

Peromyscus maniculatus (deer mouse) Image/CDC
Peromyscus maniculatus (deer mouse)

Confirmatory testing results are expected to be available Thursday.

This follows two reports since December in the area–a fatal case in a man from Issaquah in his 30s in February and a Redmond woman who contracted the virus in November who is currently recovering.

Public Health – Seattle & King County does not believe the two cases in Issaquah are related but there are reports of increased numbers of deer mice seen in the area.

“If this third case of HPS is confirmed it suggests that certain areas of the county are at increased risk compared to past years.” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “People who live near wooded areas where deer mice are common should take steps to keep rodents out of the home and other structures, and take precautions when cleaning up rodent nests and potentially contaminated spaces. Anyone who has had exposure to rodent nests or areas where rodents are living and who develops symptoms should see a health care provider promptly.”

LISTEN: Mark Waterbury, PhD discusses his wife’s battle with HPS, hantavirus “hotspots” and a unique transmission theory for the virus

Members of the public are reminded to avoid rodent droppings and nests and to take precautions when cleaning up after rodents.

In Washington, the only rodents that spread hantavirus are deer mice, which live in woodland areas and deserts. They have distinctive white underbellies and white sides. They are only distantly related to the common house mouse. Rats do not spread hantavirus in Washington

Hantavirus is a rare disease in Washington State. Before 2016, the last case of hantavirus infection acquired in King County was in 2003.  There have also been 3 other cases reported to Public Health since 1997 where the people were thought to have been infected outside of the county.