County Confirms Case of Hantavirus

This is a deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus, a hantavirus carrier that becomes a threat when it enters human habitation in rural and suburban areas. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings, or saliva. Humans can contract the disease when they breathe in aerosolized virus. HPS was first recognized in 1993, and has since been identified throughout the United States. Although rare, HPS is potentially deadly. Rodent control in and around the home remains the primary strategy for preventing hantavirus infection. All hantaviruses known to cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) are carried by New World rats and mice of the family Muridae, subfamily Sigmodontinae, which contains at least 430 species that are widespread throughout North and South America. Image: James Gathany, CDC, Wikimedia Commons.
This is a deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus, a hantavirus carrier that becomes a threat when it enters human habitation in rural and suburban areas. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings, or saliva.  Image: James Gathany, CDC, Wikimedia Commons.

Washoe County health officials said today that they have confirmed a case of the potentially lethal Hantavirus. They are warning residents to avoid areas where mice may be active. The virus is spread by deer mice and their droppings.

“People should be very cautious when cleaning, working, or recreating in areas where mouse droppings and/or urine may have collected and become aerosolized by cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming, or tramping,” said Kevin Dick, county health officer. “It’s when those particles are breathed in that people are at risk for contracting the virus. Campers, hunters, and hikers may also be at risk if they are in areas where heavy rodent infestation is common, such as old cabins, barns, sheds, and campsites.

“People pulling out holiday decorations from garages and storage units may also find signs of rodent activity, and should take precautions.”

The case was detected in south Reno. Hantavirus has a nearly 40 percent mortality rate in humans. It is recognized by flu-like symptoms that appear within one to eight weeks of exposure. There is no treatment, but care in an intensive care unit can help patients recover.

County recommendations:

  • Always spray the area being cleaned with a disinfectant and let it set for five minutes before starting to work;
  • Wear protective clothing like gloves and a face mask to keep from touching and breathing in viral particles;
  • Set out traps to kill mice and other rodents;
  • Double-bag dead rodents and rodent waste in plastic sacks before disposing them in the garbage; and,
  • Identify and plug openings that may allow rodents entry.  A deer mouse can fit through an opening the size of a nickel.  Plug holes using steel wool and put caulk around the steel wool to keep in in place.
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About Bob Conrad 823 Articles
Bob Conrad is proprietor and co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company (disclosure: client work includes projects funded by grants through UNR) and is an adjunct faculty member at Truckee Meadows Community College. He is a contributor to Reno Public Radio.