NewsDesk @bactiman63

New Mexico state health officials report the total hantavirus cases in the state have risen to five after three people with Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) were discovered within the last two weeks.

Deer mouse/CDC

All of the people are unrelated, occurring in different locations in the Four Corners region. One person died from the virus. The four surviving patients all required hospitalization, including time in intensive care units, before being able to return home.

HPS is a severe respiratory illness is caused by the Sin Nombre virus. In New Mexico, deer mice are the main carriers of Hantavirus. The virus is found in mice droppings and urine.

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.

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.

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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.

To prevent contracting Hantavirus, follow these important steps:

  • Air out closed‐up buildings such as cabins and sheds, as well as abandoned or stored vehicles before entering
  • Trap mice until they are all gone
  • Seal up homes and shelters to prevent rodents from entering
  • Soak nests and droppings with a disinfectant such as a 10 percent bleach solution before cleaning them up
  • 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