Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Two Hantavirus-related Deaths in Utah

(Salt Lake City, UT)  – Utah public health officials have confirmed two deaths as a result of hantavirus exposure.  The deaths occurred in Millard County and in Salt Lake County as a result of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), a rare, but deadly, lung disease. 

HPS is spread by breathing in dust around rodent-infested areas that contain hantavirus, and is not spread from person-to-person. This can happen when rodent urine and droppings that contain hantavirus become airborne. The average age of known cases is 35 years with an age range of 11 to 69 years.  No ethnic group appears to be more at risk than another.

Activities that can put people at risk include:
•  Improperly cleaning up mouse and rat urine, droppings and nests.
•  Cleaning a shed or cabin that has been closed for some time.
•  Working in areas where mice and rats may live (such as barns).

Although HPS is rare, infection can be prevented by avoiding contact with rodents and their droppings.  Try to avoid any activities that might stir up dust around rodent-infested areas.

To safely clean up rodent urine and droppings, wear a mask, glasses, and rubber or plastic gloves. Get the urine and droppings very wet with disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water.  Allow to soak for five minutes.  Use a paper towel to wipe up urine or droppings and throw the towel into the garbage. Mop the area with disinfectant or a bleach solution. 

When  finished, wash gloved hands with soap and water or spray a disinfectant or bleach solution on the gloves before taking them off.  Wash hands with soap and warm water after removing the gloves. 
The recommended cleaning solution is a mixture of 1½ cups household bleach and 1 gallon of water.  A smaller amount can be made with one part bleach and 10 parts water. 

Hantavirus symptoms generally begin with a fever greater than 100.5° F, muscle aches, and chills.  Other common symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and headache.  Less common symptoms are dizziness or a light-headed feeling, sweating, and joint, back, chest, or abdominal pain. If you experience symptoms, contact your medical provider immediately. 

Media Contact:
Rebecca Ward
Media Coordinator
(801) 538-6822 (o)
(801) 647-5421 (m)