Confirmed Case of Hantavirus in Flathead County

By Beacon Staff

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services confirmed a case of Hantavirus in a Flathead County resident.

The resident is one of 35 confirmed cases reported in the state since 1993, according to a press release from the Flathead City-County Health Department, and the state typically sees one to two cases per year.

Hantavirus cases usually increase during warmer spring weather as people begin to clean their garages and sheds. The virus is spread by infected deer mice, and cleaning activities can disturb nesting materials contaminated with dried saliva, urine and droppings from the rodents.

A person contracts the Hantavirus if contaminated materials are directly introduced into broken skin, eyes or the mouth.

Symptoms can begin one to six weeks after infection, the health department said, and the sickness usually starts with three to fives days of flu-like symptoms including fever, sore muscles, head aches, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. The illness moves on to severe shortness of breath within a few days.

Early diagnosis and immediate medical care increase the likelihood of full recovery, the health department said, and individuals who work around rodents and present these symptoms should tell their health care provider that they have been around rodents.

If a person finds rodent nests, the health department recommends following these steps to help prevent exposure to Hantavirus while cleaning:

• Wear rubber, latex, or vinyl gloves and a mask when cleaning urine and droppings.
• Spray the urine and droppings with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water and let soak five minutes.
The recommended concentration of bleach solution is one part bleach to 10 parts water. When using a commercial disinfectant, following the manufacturer’s instructions on the label for dilution and disinfection time. Visit http://www.cdc.gov/rodents/prevent_infestations/clean_up.html for more information.
• Wipe or mop the area with a sponge or paper towel (throw away items after use)
• Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after removing gloves.
• Never sweep or vacuum in these areas as this can stir up dust and aerosolize the droppings.

For more information, visit www.flatheadhealth.org or call 751-8101.

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