The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reports a case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in a 50-year-old woman from McKinley County who was hospitalized and has since returned home.

Deer mouse/CDC

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

Save on Kona Coffee when you buy a Triple-pack!

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.

Subscribe to Outbreak News TV

Early symptoms of HPS are like those for the flu including fever and muscle aches, possibly with chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cough. These symptoms develop within one to six weeks after rodent exposure. Although there is no specific cure for HPS, chances for recovery are better when medical attention is sought early.

The best preventive measure people can take is to avoid contact with mice and other rodents including their droppings and nesting materials.  The important steps are to:

  • AIR OUT closed-up buildings and stored vehicles before entering.
  • SEAL UP your homes, cabins and outbuildings so mice don’t get in.
  • TRAP UP mice until they are all gone.
  • CLEAN UP nests and droppings using a disinfectant and appropriate technique.
  • Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
  • Get rid of trash and junk piles.
  • Store livestock and pet foods in sealed metal containers to prevent rodent access.

In the past ten years in New Mexico there have been 37 cases of HPS in New Mexico.  Twenty-one of those people survived the disease. There were no cases of HPS in New Mexico in 2018, and five cases in 2017.