On May 30, the Arizona Department of Health Services confirmed seven cases of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) in northern and central Arizona this year. The case fatality rate is 57 percent for northern and central Arizona in 2006. According to the state Epidemiologist these cases represent the most Hantavirus activity in Arizona since the outbreak of 1993-94.
There have been 51 cases of HPS reported in Arizona since 1992. Sixteen cases were fatal. A total of five cases were reported in Arizona in 2005.
The deer mouse is the primary rodent to transmit Hantavirus to humans, causing Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. Humans can become infected by inhaling virus particles, which may become airborne, when rodent urine, droppings, saliva, or nests become disturbed. Entering or cleaning rodent-infested structures has been associated with a high risk of exposure to the virus.
Symptoms of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome include: fever, severe muscle aches, fatigue, and after a few days difficulty in breathing. Other symptoms may include: headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Persons experiencing these symptoms within 45 days of the last potential exposure to rodents or rodent droppings should immediately seek medical attention.
Rodent control in and around the home remains the primary strategy in preventing Hantavirus infection. Recommended guidelines for preventing Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome are:
• Seal all holes and gaps to the outside larger than inch in diameter by using steel wool, thick wire screen, sheet metal or cement.
• Move woodpiles, hay bales and outside clutter as far away from the home as possible.
• Eliminate excess weeds and brush.
• Dispose of garbage in trashcans with tight fitting lids and do not leave pet food in dishes.
• Wash dirty dishes promptly and clean up food spills immediately.
• Store bulk grains and animal feed in rodent-proof containers.
Clean-up Rodent Droppings and Nesting Materials:
• If you are entering a building that has not been occupied for some time or regularly, the building, shed, or cabin should be aired out by opening all doors and windows for at least 30 minutes.
• Do not clean droppings or nesting materials by sweeping, brushing or vacuuming, since these methods can cause the virus to aerosolize and increase a person’s chance of inhaling the virus.
• Spray rodent droppings or nests liberally with 1- cups of bleach in 1 gallon of water or with a household disinfectant, such as Lysol‚, and allow soaking for at least 15 minutes.
• Wear rubber gloves and clean up the droppings with disposable paper towels or rags.
• Seal all materials, droppings or nests in double plastic bags and dispose of them in the trash.
Trap-up rodents and dispose of them properly: • Place spring-loaded metal “snap” traps in areas where rodents and their droppings have been observed. Traps should be baited with peanut butter and checked regularly.
• Spray dead rodents with 1-1/2 cups of bleach in 1 gallon of water or with a household disinfectant, such as Lysol‚, and allow soaking for at least 15 minutes.
• Wear rubber gloves, seal the dead rodents in double plastic bags and put them in the trash.
• Snap traps can be disinfected and re-used.
• In areas above 4,500 feet in elevation, rodents may be carrying fleas that are capable of transmitting the plague. Dead rodents and rodent nests should be sprayed with a pesticide to kill fleas before disinfecting or disposing of the carcasses. In addition, insect repellant containing DEET can be sprayed on clothing, shoes, and hands to further reduce the risk of flea bites while picking up dead rodents.
Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a computer website with additional information about HPS: www.cdc.gov/hantavirus
Also, for more information, contact the Arizona Department of Health Services Vector Borne Disease Program at 602-364-4562 or the Hopi Health Care Center, Office of Environmental Health and Engineering at 928-737-6283