Hantavirus means not all mice are nice
SUMMIT COUNTY -The snow is finally melting, and state health officials are once again reminding High Country residents to take precautions against rodent-borne disease as spring cleaning begins. Colorado’s first case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome for 2006 was confirmed earlier this week, according to epidemiologist John Pate of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.”Our first case this year follows a record number of cases in 2005, which totaled 11, one of which was fatal,” he said.This year’s case involved a Huerfano County man who became ill in late April and is expected to recover.Hantavirus is a serious respiratory disease carried by deer mice, Pape added. The virus can infect humans when they have contact with infected mice or stir up dust while cleaning out rodent-infested structures.The virus is fatal in nearly half of all cases. Symptoms usually begin from one to six weeks after exposure, and include high fever, severe body aches, headache and vomiting. Initial respiratory symptoms, such as a runny nose, sinus congestion and productive cough are generally not associated with hantavirus.Once the virus progresses, Pape said, respiratory distress occurs, including a cough and difficulty breathing.Because there is no effective treatment, prevention is very important, Pape added.Key precautions include eradicating live mice from a structure before starting any extensive cleaning, adequately ventilating the room or structure and wetting down all accumulations of dust, dirt and mouse droppings with a mixture of bleach and water before any cleaning begins.”You’re supposed to wet the animal feces so you don’t aerosolize it,” Summit County community nursing manager Michelle Wilson said.Wilson said there’s never been a case of hantavirus in Summit County, but she still encourages area resident to take precautions.”Just because if never has, it still could,” she said. More information about hantavirus, including a photograph of a deer mouse, can be found at http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/dc/zoonosis/hanta/hantahom.html.
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