July 8, 2014
Two recent cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome were confirmed in residents of the Texas Panhandle and South Plains, bringing the year’s total to three.
Texas had one case in 2013. No cases were reported from 2009 to 2012.
The disease is severe and sometimes fatal, prompting the Texas Department of
State Health Services to remind people to protect themselves from the virus
that causes HPS. A case confirmed earlier this year was a resident of the
Hantavirus is carried by certain species of rats and mice that shed the virus
in their urine, droppings and saliva. The virus can be transmitted to people
when nesting materials or dust contaminated by infected rat or mouse urine,
droppings and saliva are stirred up, allowing the virus to be breathed in by
humans. The illness is rare, but HPS cases are frequently associated with
DSHS recommends general safety precautions that apply to Hantavirus as well as
other infectious diseases:
- 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.
- Before cleaning up nests or droppings found inside,
open windows and doors to ventilate the area for at least 30 minutes.
- If any dust will be stirred up, goggles and a HEPA
or N-95 mask are recommended.
- Wear protective gloves to handle dead mice and rats
or to clean up nesting areas, urine or droppings.
- Do not stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming. Dampen
areas before cleanup with either a 1-to-10 bleach-water mixture or another
effective disinfectant, in order to eliminate dust and begin inactivating
the virus. After 30 minutes, apply the viricide again and immediately
begin the cleaning process.
- Use the same viricide and apply to dead rodents,
nests, urine and droppings before cleaning, with the same 30 minute
interval and reapplication process.
Early symptoms of hantavirus infection include fatigue,
fever and muscle aches. These symptoms 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 health care provider immediately and inform the
practitioner of exposure to rodents, their waste, or their nesting material.
A total of 41 HPS cases have been confirmed in Texas since 1993, the first year
it was reported. 14 of those cases resulted in death.
(News Media Contact: Christine
Mann, DSHS Press Officer, 512-776-7511.)
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