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News Release
September 19, 2005

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is issuing precautions after a Howard County resident developed hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, or HPS, last month and died.

This is the first recorded case of HPS in Howard County.

DSHS officials, citing personal privacy and medical confidentiality concerns, declined to provide additional details about the Howard County resident.

Hantavirus is carried by certain species of rats and mice, including deer mice and cotton and rice rats. The illness is rare. Most rats and mice do not carry the virus. But infected rats and mice 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, temporarily aerosolizing the virus, which then can be breathed in by humans.

DSHS recommends the following precautions.

  • Remove brush, woodpiles and other items that may attract rats and mice.
  • Tightly close garbage cans, pet food containers and other food sources for rats and mice.
  • Seal openings that may allow rats and mice to enter residences and workplaces.
  • Wear protective gloves if it is necessary to handle dead mice or 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.
  • Spray dead rats and mice and nests, urine and droppings -- indoors or out -- with a disinfectant or a 1-to-10 bleach-water mixture until wet and with an insecticide to kill fleas that may carry the bacterium that causes plague. Allow to stand for five minutes before cleaning up using paper towels. If indoors, use a disinfectant or bleach-water solution to disinfect surfaces after cleanup.
  • Double-bag and seal dead rats or mice, nests or droppings in plastic bags and dispose of in trash.
  • Before removing protective gloves, wash in warm soapy water or spray with a disinfectant and wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after removing the gloves.

Early symptoms of hantavirus infection include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in large muscles. These symptoms may be accompanied by headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Later symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath.

The first HPS case in Texas was reported in 1993. There was one case in the state last year and six in 2003. There have been four cases this year.

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( News media: for more information contact Kathy Parker, DSHS Zoonosis Control Specialist, Midland, 432-571-4118; or Doug McBride, DSHS Press Officer, Austin, 512-458-7524.)

Last updated August 18, 2010