Spring brings threat of hantavirus
Animals have emerged from their winter nests, and flowers are in full bloom – and so is the threat of hantavirus.Colorado recently saw its first confirmed case of the airborne respiratory disease, which is primarily transmitted by the urine and feces of rural deer mice. Environment and health officials are encouraging awareness and caution after a record 11 cases in Colorado last year.However, Pitkin County senior environmental health specialist Nancy MacKenzie said the early emergence this year of the disease, which can be deadly, is no cause for alarm.Symptoms are similar to those of the flu, and can include a high fever, body aches, headaches and vomiting. Respiratory symptoms such as runny nose or sinus congestion are usually not present at the outset, according to a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment news release.And while the deer mouse is the primary carrier, MacKenzie said contracting the disease usually takes more than one isolated animal.”It’s usually a high infestation,” she said. “People knew they had a lot of mice.”If people believe they have an infestation, it’s best to call an exterminator, she said. In addition, people should be sure to let barns or cabins that have been closed up to air out at least 20 minutes before entering. For cleaning, don’t use a broom, which will just kick potentially infectious dust in the air. MacKenzie said to use bleach to kill the disease. Also, people with animals should be sure not to leave food outside that could attract rodents – even horse feed or bird feeders could attract contagious mice.And as always, a little anti-bacterial soap never hurt.”Hand-washing helps with any kind of disease,” MacKenzie said.
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