Local exposed to deadly hantavirus
Garfield County Public Health officials are working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to investigate a recent case of hantavirus exposure in the western part of Garfield County.
According to Renelle Lott, chief communications officer for Garfield County, the status of the person exposed to the virus cannot be shared with the public.
“We do not generally get, nor could we release, condition reports on people, as that is protected under HIPPA laws,” she said in an email. “We get data, not specifics, in most cases.”
Lott also said the county public health staff will work with the state health department to try to determine how the virus was contracted and where, but that is expected to take a couple of weeks. Last year, a Silt resident contracted hantavirus and recovered, although the disease has a high mortality rate and no specific cure.
“Every year we see cases of hantavirus in Colorado,” said Public Health Director Yvonne Long. “Our state is second highest in the nation in cases of the disease. If you have mice in or around your home, barn, or cabins, you are at risk for exposure to hantavirus. That is why we are urging people to exercise extreme caution when they enter or clean up an area with evidence of rodents.”
Hantavirus is carried in the saliva, urine and droppings of certain infected mice that are found in the western and central parts of the United States. When contaminated dirt and dust are stirred up, the virus becomes airborne. Most people become infected by breathing in the particles, but it can also be transmitted through the bite of an infected mouse.
“This is the first case of hantavirus in Garfield County reported this year,” Long said. “There is close to a 40 percent mortality rate associated with the virus. In the case we had last year, thankfully the person who was exposed successfully recovered. Hantavirus is extremely serious and with its high mortality rate, we urge people to take serious precautions.”
It takes an average of two to four weeks for symptoms of hantavirus to appear. Early symptoms include fatigue, fever, and muscle aches in the large muscle groups. Additional symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, chills and abdominal problems. Within one to five days after early symptoms begin, late symptoms consistent with respiratory distress begin. These include cough and difficulty breathing.
There is no specific treatment, cure or vaccine for hantavirus infection. However, individuals who recognize the symptoms and seek prompt medical treatment may have a better chance of recovery.
To avoid exposure, do not sweep or vacuum areas where rodents have been present. Instead, wear protective gloves and wet down the areas with a bleach and water solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. Keep the area wet for five minutes before beginning cleanup. Wipe up and dispose of all contaminated material. When disposing of dead rodents, always use gloves.
Homes can be rodent-proofed by eliminating food sources and removing abandoned vehicles, brush, wood and junk piles where rodents may hide. Plug holes and other mouse entryways. Use traps, poisons or, if necessary, hire a professional exterminator. Keep indoor areas clean and store food in rodent-proof containers; this includes pet and livestock food. Store firewood at least 100 feet from the house.
More hantavirus information can be found through Garfield County Public Health at 970-625-5200, or 970-945-6614.
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