Western Colorado hantavirus victim is recovering
Contact Garfield County Public Health at 970-625-5200 or 970-945-6614.
The western Garfield County resident exposed to hantavirus, a serious disease caused by exposure to deer mice, is at home and recovering.
The person, who is not being identified, is fortunate; three other cases of hantavirus have been reported this year in Colorado, and all were fatal. The victims lived in Phillips, Chaffee and La Plata counties. The mortality rate for this illness is nearly 40 percent nationwide.
“We are relieved and happy to report that the person in Garfield County is working toward recovery,” said Sara Brainard, Garfield County Public Health nurse manager.
On Monday, representatives from the Garfield County Public Health Department conducted a site visit to investigate areas of potential hantavirus exposure that may have contributed to the recent hospitalization.
“There were a few areas of potential exposure,” Brainard said. “We go out on site visits to ascertain the risk for any further exposure and to talk with property managers about ways to reduce rodent populations in those areas. We also review how to approach further clean up if it is needed.”
Hantavirus, though rare, can be extremely dangerous. Colorado is the second highest in the nation in cases of the disease.
“There were no underlying health conditions in any of the people infected in Colorado this year. It goes to show you how serious this disease can be,” said Brainard.
Garfield County Public Health credits prompt medical treatment for saving the life of the Garfield County resident.
“The patient reported rodent activity in the environment, and medical providers recognized hantavirus and got the patient appropriate care immediately,” Brainard said.
The general population may have a low risk of coming into contact with hantavirus, but when someone does, it can have very serious consequences.
“When I talk to people about cleaning up after mice, I talk to them about using caution everywhere in the space,” Brainard said. “Use extra caution when opening up closets or pulling boxes and other items off of shelves. These items may have contaminated dust in or around them as well.”
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is caused when a person breathes in dust that contains particles of rodent urine and droppings. It takes an average of two to four weeks for symptoms of hantavirus to appear. Early ‘flu-like’ symptoms include fever, fatigue, and muscle aches in the large muscle groups. If you have had exposure to mice and have symptoms of illness, seek medical attention and tell your doctor you have been exposed to rodents. There is no specific treatment for hantavirus, but individuals who receive early treatment may have a better chance of recovery.
If you see signs of mice, avoid vacuuming and sweeping, or doing anything that stirs up dust. Instead, ventilate the area, and always wet surfaces down with a bleach/water solution. Keep the area wet for five minutes before beginning clean up. Wipe up and discard all contaminated material.
According to Brainard, “It needs to become normal practice to use these precautions. We know taking the extra time to prepare the surface for proper cleaning takes longer, but the consequences of exposure can be devastating.”
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