Take precautions against hantavirus | PostIndependent.com

Take precautions against hantavirus

Garfield County Public Health officials are urging caution to avoid hantavirus exposure. As of June there have been three confirmed cases of hantavirus in the state, two resulting in death. Garfield County had a case of hantavirus in both 2014 and 2015.

Not all mice have hantavirus, but because the illness has such a high mortality rate people should take extreme caution in areas where mice have been present.

Hantavirus is a serious respiratory disease carried by deer mice. People become infected when virus-containing particles from rodent urine, droppings or saliva are stirred into the air. It is important to avoid actions that raise dust, such as sweeping or vacuuming. Infection occurs when you breathe in virus particles.

The State Health Department has documented over 90 cases of Hantavirus since it began tracking the disease in 1993. More than 40 percent of these individuals died from the infection.

Coloradans can be at risk of Hantavirus exposure while cleaning cabins or other buildings that were closed up for winter. People are urged to be particularly careful where there is evidence that mice have been in and around buildings or wood or junk piles. Before cleaning, it is necessary to completely remove the existing rodent infestation by trapping. When there is no evidence of infestation, wait five days before cleaning the area. This allows enough time to pass so that any infectious virus in the rodent’s urine/droppings is no longer infectious.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

The best method for cleaning up rodent droppings is to wear gloves, wet the area with a bleach and water solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) and to keep the area wet for five minutes prior to cleanup. When disposing of dead rodents always use gloves and dispose of rodents in a sealed plastic bag. Next, clean up any urine, droppings or nests first; then clean and disinfect the whole area by mopping/washing. Dispose of gloves and all cleaning materials. Wash hands with soap and water.

Hantavirus normally begins with fever, body aches, headache and vomiting. The symptoms begin from one to six weeks after exposure. At first there are no respiratory symptoms. However, the illness can quickly progress to respiratory distress within one to five days. People may have a dry cough and difficulty breathing caused by the lungs filling with fluid. Because no effective treatment exists prevention is key. Individuals who recognize the symptoms and seek prompt medical treatment may have a better chance of recovery. Always tell your physician if you have been exposed to rodents.

For more hantavirus information, contact Garfield County Public Health at 970-625-5200 or 970-945-6614 or visit garfield-county.com/public-health.

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