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Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

by Janet Alexander

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a rare disease caused by a virus (hantavirus). The first symptoms of hantavirus are fever, muscle pain, and fatigue. This can happen one to three weeks after exposure to the virus. Some people also get headaches, dizziness, vomiting, or diarrhea. After about four to ten days, people who are sick with hantavirus infection begin to cough and have shortness of breath. Once this phase begins, the disease progresses rapidly, necessitating hospitalization and often requires ventilation within 24 hours. Immediate critical care is a necessity when dealing with this serious disease.

Wild rodents can pass hantavirus to people. Several different types of wild mice and rats can be infected with hantavirus and pass it in their droppings, urine, or saliva. The common house mouse does not carry hantavirus. People can get hantavirus when they come into contact with rodent urine, droppings, or places where these animals have nested. Even dried droppings or urine can be stirred up in the form of dust and inhaled. Hantavirus has not been shown to infect other kinds of animals, such as dogs, cats, or farm animals. It is not contagious from person to person.

With all this said, hantavirus is a fairly uncommon disease and is not regularly found in the Bay Area; however, there is proof it does exist. Some common precautions can help prevent infection from this disease:

  • Keep your home clean and clutter-free. Ensure that stored foods are kept in tightly sealed containers.
  • Keep garbage containers tightly sealed.
  • Seal all entry holes to your home with ÂĽ-inch hardware cloth, cement, wire screening, or other patching materials, inside and out.
  • Do not enter indoor places where there are high levels of rodent infestation—especially older, abandoned buildings.

There may be a higher risk in this type of situation.

Learn more about hantavirus pulmonary syndrome at the Center for Disease Control’s website, which includes questions and answers, prevention and control information, and more.

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