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Hantavirus case prompts precautions

Texas Department of State Health Services

Medical administrators with the Texas Department of State Health Services offer precaution information after a Texas Panhandle resident recently developed hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, or HPS.
The person, a resident of Swisher County, has recovered from the infection. Exposure most likely occurred in a rodent-infested barn when dust was stirred up. This is the first confirmed case of HPS in Texas this year. One case was reported in the state last year.
A rare illness, hantavirus is carried by certain species of rats and mice. Infected rodents shed the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva. The virus can be transmitted to people when infected rat or mouse urine, saliva, droppings or nesting materials are stirred up. This temporarily aerosolizes the virus, which can be breathed in by humans. HPS cases are frequently associated with spring cleaning.
DSHS recommends the following precautions:
• Seal openings that may allow rats and mice to enter homes and workplaces.
• Remove brush, woodpiles, trash and other items that may attract rats and mice.
• Tightly close garbage cans, pet food containers and other food sources.
• Wear protective gloves to handle dead mice and rats or to clean up nesting areas, urine or droppings.
• Before cleaning up nests or droppings found inside, open windows and doors to ventilate the area for at least 30 minutes.
• Do not stir up nests by sweeping or vacuuming. Dampen areas before cleanup.
• Use a disinfectant or 1-to-10 bleach-water mixture to clean up dead rodents, nests, urine and droppings.
Early symptoms of hantavirus infection include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, which may be accompanied by headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Later symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath. If hantavirus is suspected, people should contact their healthcare provider immediately.
A total of 39 HPS cases have been confirmed in Texas since 1993, the first year it was reported with 14 of those cases resulting in death.