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Eagle County reports fatal case of hantavirus

August 5, 2014, 12:19 pm

Health officials and laboratory results have confirmed that an Eagle County resident has died from Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) following exposure to hantavirus. The victim was an adult male. The last hantavirus case in Eagle County was in 2005.

The recent hantavirus victim was identified Tuesday by Eagle County coroner Kara Bettis as 41-year-old Manuel Hernandez, an Eagle County resident for the past two months.

Hantavirus is carried by deer mice that are common to rural areas throughout Colorado. Infection can occur if mouse urine and droppings that contain hantavirus are stirred up into the air and inhaled; or if people touch urine, droppings or nesting materials that contain the virus then touch their eyes, nose or mouth; or through a bite. The virus does not spread from person to person.

eagle county logoDeer mice are brown on top and white underneath and have large ears. Common house mice are all gray, have smaller ears and don’t carry hantavirus.

Hantavirus causes death in approximately 40 percent of cases. Symptoms begin from one to six weeks after exposure and include high fever, severe body aches, headache and vomiting. Initially, there are no respiratory symptoms. Because no effective treatment exists for hantavirus, prevention is the key to avoiding infection.

As spring and summer months are typically when Colorado sees the most human cases of hantavirus, residents are warned to take precautions if they see mouse droppings or other signs of mice:

  • Use special care when cleaning rodent-infested structures. Open doors or windows to provide good ventilation for 30 to 60 minutes before cleaning out structures.
  • Avoid stirring up dust by watering down areas of mouse infestation with a mixture of one part bleach to nine parts water. Thoroughly soak potentially contaminated areas with the bleach mixture.
  • Use rubber gloves to pick up saturated waste, including nesting materials or dead mice. Double-bag the waste using plastic bags, and bury or dispose of it in an outdoor garbage can.
  • Disinfect gloves with bleach and water before removing. Wash hands thoroughly afterward.
  • In cases of sever infestation, or when ventilation and dust suppression are not possible, use a rubber face mask equipped with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
  • Rodent proof buildings by plugging holes or other mouse entryways. Conduct year-round rodent control using traps or poisons, or hire a professional exterminator.
  • Make home and work areas uninviting to rodents by keeping indoor areas clean, especially kitchens. Dispose of garbage in sealed containers.
  • Eliminate food sources by storing food in rodent-proof containers, including food for pets, livestock and birds.
  • Remove rodent hiding places near the home such as wood, junk and brush piles. Store firewood at least 100 feet from the house. Keep vegetation around the house well trimmed.

For additional information on hantavirus, including how to protect yourself, how to properly clean rodent-infested areas, and how to rodent-proof your home, visit www.cdc.gov/hantavirus.

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