While relatively rare, every year the U.S. reports between 10 and 50 Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) cases, of which, roughly 35% prove fatal. Cases have been reported in 35 states (see map below), with 96% of all cases reported west of the Mississippi River.
Hantavirus is a collective term for a group of viruses in the Bunyaviridae family – hosted by various types of rodents - that vary in distribution, symptomology, and severity around the world.
Scientists have identified dozens of viruses within the genus Hantavirus (named after the Hantaan River of Korea) from all around the world, with mortality that varies from 1%-2% for some varieties (i.e. Seoul Virus, Puumala Virus) to more than 30% for the North American Sin Nombre and South American Andes Virus.
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is one of the more severe manifestations of hantavirus infection, and in the US is primarily caused by the Sin Nombre hantavirus, which is carried by deer mice.
Last summer the CDC held a COCA call (see Upcoming COCA Call: Identification and Care of Patients with Hantavirus Disease) to help familiarize practitioners with the signs and treatment of this admittedly rare infection. Those resources remain available online.Yesterday the state of Washington announced their 5th HPS case of 2017 - making this their most active year in almost 2 decades - of which 3 have prove fatal. Their statement follows, after which I'll return with a bit more.
For immediate release: July 6, 2017 (17-098)
Contact: Liz Coleman, Environmental Public Health 360-481-2016
Dave Johnson, Strategic Communications Office 360-545-2944
Fifth hantavirus diagnosis confirmed, most reported since 1999
OLYMPIA – The Department of Health confirmed today that the number of people diagnosed with hantavirus this year has reached five, the highest number reported in the state since 1999.
Three deaths have been reported in 2017. The people who died are from Franklin, King, and Spokane counties. The two additional people who contracted the disease and survived are from King and Skagit counties.
Deer mice are known to carry hantavirus. People can become infected by breathing in air contaminated with the virus, through direct contact with hantavirus-infected deer mice, and from saliva, urine, droppings, or nesting material.
It is important to eliminate or minimize contact with rodents and to take precautions when cleaning rodent-infested areas. Hantavirus cannot be spread from person-to-person. People can follow these simple steps to protect themselves.
If you think you’ve been exposed to deer mice watch for symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and shortness of breath for up to eight weeks after exposure. If symptoms develop, see your health care provider and mention your exposure to deer mice.
Video: Dr. Scott Lindquist, deputy health officer for DOH, provides tips on protecting you and your family from hantavirus. The Department of Health website (doh.wa.gov) is your source for a healthy dose of information. Also, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter
Three years ago, in Hantaviruses: Of Mice And Men, we took a look at some of the high risk activities that can expose a person to hantavirus infection (and some ways to prevent that), while in 2012, we followed the high profile outbreak at the Yosemite National Park campgrounds (see MMWR: Yosemite Hantavirus).
For more information on how you can prevent rodent infestations, the following information is available on the CDC Rodents site. And for more information, the CDC offers a 16 page PDF on Hantavirus, which is available on their Hantavirus Main page.
For more information you may wish to visit:
- CDC Hantavirus Homepage
- CDC Hantavirus for Healthcare Workers
- CDC Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome Case Definition