Washoe County Health District on Tuesday reported the first new case of hantavirus in the community since December 2020. The case was reported in a teenage male who has been hospitalized.
Hantavirus is a rare and potentially severe respiratory disease that can cause fever, headache, muscle aches, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms can take anywhere from a few days to up to eight weeks to appear after exposure. After four to 10 days, symptoms may worsen to include coughing, shortness of breath and fluid in the lungs.
There is no treatment for hantavirus, but health care providers can treat the symptoms of the disease.
“If infected individuals are recognized early and receive medical care, health outcomes may improve,” health district officials said.
Only one of the four cases reported in Washoe County since 2019 has led to death.
Hantavirus is spread by infected rodents, often deer mice, and most commonly contracted by humans through exposure to or inhalation of viral particles in the rodents’ feces, urine or saliva.
Mice do not hibernate over the winter, but may seek warmth and shelter inside of homes, garages and sheds, potentially increasing the risk of exposure to the virus. Blocking rodent access to these areas is the best option.
The health district provided these tips for cleaning areas with mouse activity:
- Do not sweep or vacuum the area with urine, droppings, or nesting material.
- A solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water should be used when cleaning urine and/or droppings (1.5 cups bleach to 1 gallon of water). Spray the solution on areas with rodent droppings and leave for 5 minutes before wiping the area with disposable paper towels or cloth.
- Wear gloves (i.e., latex, vinyl, rubber) and a face mask to avoid touching or breathing in viral particles.
- Identify areas where mice are and plug openings and set traps; a deer mouse can fit through an opening the size of a nickel.
More information on hantavirus is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/index.html.