Utah County Health Department (UCHD) officials are investigating the death of a female Utah County resident related to hantavirus. The female was between the ages of 18 – 44, from Utah County, and had no other apparent health issues.

Deer mouse/CDC
Deer mouse/CDC

This is the second death related to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in the state in 2016, and tenth case since 2006.

Hantavirus infection is a virus transmitted by infected rodents through fresh urine, droppings or saliva. The main way the virus is spread to people is when they breathe in the air contaminated with the virus. Other transmissions can include an infected rodent biting a person, touching objects or eating food contaminated with rodent urine, droppings, or saliva from an infected rodent.

“Anyone who comes into contact with rodents that carry the virus is at risk,” says Ralph Clegg, UCHD Executive Director. “People need to be taking precautions when working in areas with potential rodent droppings and nests. Use a disinfectant spray on areas with droppings and wait 15-20 minutes before cleaning. This will kill the virus and decrease your risk.” Potential risk activities include: opening and cleaning previously unused buildings, housecleaning activities, work-related exposure, camping and hiking.

Early symptoms of hantavirus infection include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups. Headaches, dizziness, chill and abdominal problems may also be present. Four to ten days after the first phase of illness, a sick person will experience coughing and shortness of breath as the lungs fill with fluid.

HPS is fatal in over one third of cases reported. However, patients who fully recover from the disease do not experience lasting effects or complications. Individuals experiencing early symptoms such as fatigue, fever, muscle aches and have a history of rodent exposure with shortness of breath should contact their healthcare provider immediately.