Hantavirus Information

HANTAVIRUS PULMONARY SYNDROME

 

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a serious, often deadly; respiratory disease that is caused by a virus that is spread from wild rodents, mainly deer mice, to humans. HPS is often referred to as "Hantavirus". This disease was first detected in 1993 in an area shared by New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah called the "Four Corners".

Rodent Reservoir

Mother Deer Mouse & Babies

In the United States, deer mice, cotton rats, rice rats, and white-footed mice are the primary rodents that carry the virus that causes HPS. There is no evidence that common house mice, Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, farm animals, insects, reptiles, birds, dogs, or cats transmit the HPS virus.

Since deer mice and other wild rodents carry the virus, persons who are exposed to infected rodents or rodent-infested areas are at risk of contracting HPS. This would include persons living or working in rural or semi-rural areas of Colorado. Deer mice and other rodents that carry HPS are generally not found in urban or suburban settings.

Transmission of the Virus

Hantavirus is carried in the airborne particles of rodent urine, droppings, and saliva. These particles can attach to dust and dirt and accumulate on surfaces. Breathing in the virus is the most common way of becoming infected. However, infection can also occur by touching the mouth or nose after handling contaminated materials. It is suspected that HPS transmission can occur after ingestion of food or water contaminated with virus-infected rodent urine, droppings, or saliva. A rodent's bite can also spread the virus. Hantavirus is not spread from person to person. The virus can be killed on contact by most household disinfectants.

Disease Symptoms

The incubation period varies widely, but ranges from 1 to 6 weeks, with an average of 2-3 weeks. The early, flu-like symptoms of HPS include fatigue, fever (101-104° F), and muscle aches. These symptoms appear in all HPS cases. Sometimes HPS patients experience headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The primary symptom of HPS is difficulty in breathing, caused by fluid build-up in the lungs, which quickly progresses to an inability to breathe. Individuals who think they may have been infected with hantavirus should contact their doctor immediately and be sure to mention any exposure to rodents. HPS is potentially deadly and immediate intensive care is essential once symptoms appear. About half of the people who get HPS die from the illness.

Preventing HPS Infection Indoors

To reduce the risk of HPS infection, prevention is the best strategy. This simply means taking some vary practical steps to minimize contact with rodents. The rodents that transmit the virus causing HPS live near people in rural and semi-rural areas and will occupy woodpiles and any structure. They prefer buildings that are only infrequently occupied, such as barns, outbuildings, and summer cottages or cabins closed up for the season. To eliminate or minimize contact with rodents follow the rule:

AIR OUT, SEAL UP, TRAP OUT, AND CLEAN UP!

 

Before occupying an unused structure, open them up to air out for at least 30 minutes before entering. Look for signs of rodent infestation, droppings and rodent nests. A rodent nest is usually a pile of materials, such as twigs, insulation, Styrofoam, or grass under which the rodent lives. If there are signs of rodents DO NOT sweep or dry vacuum rodent contaminated surfaces, this may stir up the dust and allow potentially contaminated dust to be breathed in. Spray contaminated materials with a bleach solution (one cup bleach per gallon of water), Lysol, or any other household disinfectant and allow it to soak in for 5-10 minutes before cleaning them with a mop, sponge or wet (shop) vacuum. Wear rubber gloves. In heavily rodent infested areas or situations where ventilation and/or wet clean up can not be effectively done, use a facemask with a high efficiency particulate air (HEAP) filter. Decontaminate the cleanup equipment with a clean solution of a disinfectant. Launder potentially contaminated bedding and clothing with hot water and detergent, then machine dry on a high setting or hang it to air dry in the sun.

If rodents are present in the building, eliminate them by using snap traps baited with peanut butter or peanut butter and oatmeal mixed. Trapping success will be increased if food sources have been eliminated and entrances to the building sealed to keep new mice from moving in. Continue trapping efforts as long as rodent presence is suspected in the building. Seal all entry holes to the building that are 1/4 inch or wider with steel wool, caulking, cement, metal screening, or flashing.

Always wear rubber or plastic gloves when handling dead rodents. Place the carcass in a plastic bag containing a sufficient amount of bleach solution, Lysol, or any other household disinfectant to thoroughly wet the carcass. Seal the bag and place it in a second plastic bag and dispose of it in a garbage can with a tight fitting lid. Always disinfect gloves (wash gloved hands with disinfectant then in soap and water) before taking them off. After removing gloves, thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water.

Preventing HPS Infection Outdoors

Preventing rodents from entering or living around your home or buildings is very important. Always limit food sources that will attract rodents both inside and outside the home. Keep pet food and livestock feed in rodent-proof containers. Clean-up spills from bird feeders and pet food dishes daily. Limit possible nesting sites in or near the buildings. Keep grass and vegetation trimmed short. Store firewood off the ground (18 inches) and away from building or fences (12 inches). Remove wood and junk piles, abandoned vehicles, equipment and other sources of shelter from the property. Keep tight-fitting lids on the garbage cans. Metal garbage cans work best as rodents can not gnaw into them.

People who work outdoors or enjoy outdoor activities are at a lower risk of acquiring HPS infection. Chances of being infected are lower outdoors since infected rodent urine and droppings are not typically encountered. In addition, direct sunlight will destroy hantavirus within just a few minutes of exposure. However, you should follow these precautions when hiking and camping to reduce the likelihood of contracting HPS.

  • When planning to sleep outdoors, check potential campsites for rodent droppings or burrows.
  • Do not disturb rodents, burrows or dens.
  • Avoid sleeping near woodpiles or garbage areas that may be frequented by rodents.
  • Avoid sleeping on bare ground; use a mat, elevated cot, or tent with a floor.
  • Store foods in rodent-proof containers; all garbage should be promptly buried, burned or discarded in covered trash containers.
  • Do not use cabins or other enclosed shelters that are rodent infested until they have been properly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Use only tap, bottled water, or water that has been disinfected by filtration, boiling, chlorination, or iodination for drinking, cooking, washing dishes, and brushing teeth.

REFERENCES:

http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/dc/Zoonosis/hanta/Hanta_prevention.pdf http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hanta/hps/noframes/transmit.htm http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hanta/hps/noframes/at_risk.htm http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hanta/hps/noframes/symptoms.htm http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/HPS_Brochure.pdf http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hanta/hps/noframes/transmit.htm 

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