Garfield hantavirus patient recovering

A Garfield County victim of hantavirus is “stable and recovering nicely,” county public health director Yvonne Long says.

The hantavirus case — Colorado’s first confirmed case this year — is serving as a reminder to take precautions against the mouse-transmitted disease, especially as people take on spring-cleaning and seasonal home-improvement projects.

Such a task is thought to have led to the exposure in this year’s Garfield case.

“I believe they were looking to move out of a property and they were cleaning it and you can be exposed during that time of moving and cleaning,” Long said.

Hantavirus is found in the saliva, urine and droppings of deer mice and other wild rodents, and can become airborne and be breathed in by people if contaminated dirt and dust are stirred up.

Said Long, “We’ve had a relatively wet winter going into a wet spring. The deer mice are out populating quite a bit.”

She said it’s important when working in areas of potential exposure to wear gloves and a mask, and when cleaning up mouse droppings to first spray them with a mix of bleach and water and let them soak before wiping up the droppings.

“Just use those precautions and you’re going to cut your risk down tremendously,” she said.

For patient privacy reasons, officials aren’t saying anything about the gender or age of the Garfield County victim or where in the county the person lives.

Garfield also had a hantavirus case in 2012, and that victim survived. However, more than a third of all victims die from the disease.

There is no vaccine, cure or specific treatment for hantavirus, but those who seek prompt medical treatment have a better chance of recovery, the Garfield health department said in a news release.

It said early symptoms include muscle aches, fatigue, high fever, dizziness, headaches, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Later symptoms include coughing and difficulty breathing.

However, sinus congestion, sneezing, a runny nose and a cough that produces phlegm aren’t hantavirus-related.

The virus also can be transmitted by being bitten by a mouse, but can’t be passed from human to human.

Colorado had two confirmed hantavirus cases last year.

According to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data, from 2003 through Nov. 7 of last year there have been 50 confirmed cases in the state, 18 of which resulted in deaths.

The most cases — eight — occurred in 2005. None of the 50 cases involved Mesa County residents. The cases included the two involving Garfield County residents, and Delta, Rio Blanco and Eagle each had two cases apiece involving residents of their counties.

Thirty-one of the victims were males, and 26 cases involved people from 15 to 34 years old. Long said healthy, young adults can die from the disease.


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