Torrance County woman dies of hantavirus

A 20-year old woman from Torrance County died of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, according to a press release last week from New Mexico’s health department.

That marked the sixth case and fourth death from hantavirus in the state this year, the Health Department said.

Hantavirus infection is a deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings or saliva. People can contract the disease when they breathe in aerosolized virus. The deer mouse is the main carrier for Sin Nombre virus, the hantavirus strain found in New Mexico.

“Deer mice can be found throughout New Mexico, so people everywhere in the state should take precautions,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the department’s public health veterinarian. “Cleaning up rodent droppings and nesting material in enclosed spaces can concentrate the virus in stirred up particles that can be breathed in, so people need to be very careful when cleaning up mouse infested areas. Using a disinfectant spray on areas with rodent droppings and waiting 15 or 20 minutes before cleaning will kill the virus and decrease your risk.”

The Department of Health urges healthcare workers and the general public to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of hantavirus. Early symptoms of hantavirus infection include fever and muscle aches, possibly with chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain and cough which progresses to respiratory distress.

Symptoms develop within one to six weeks after rodent exposure. Although there is no specific treatment for HPS, chances for recovery are better if medical attention is sought early.

Important steps to follow to prevent contracting hantavirus include:

· Air out closed-up buildings before entering

· Trap mice until they are all gone

· Clean up nests and droppings using a disinfectant

· Don’t sweep up rodent droppings into the air where they can be inhaled

· Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home

· Get rid of trash and junk piles

· Don’t leave pet food and water where mice can get to it

The other cases of HPS in New Mexico earlier this year include a 25-year-old man from McKinley County who died, a 30-year-old man from San Juan County who died, an 84-year-old man from Santa Fe County who recovered, a 54-year-old man from Cibola County who died and a 37-year-old woman from Sandoval County who recovered.

In 2015, New Mexico had one case of HPS in a 53-year-old woman from Taos County who survived. In 2014 New Mexico identified six HPS cases with three deaths.

For more information about Hantavirus, visit nmhealth.org.