Recently, hantavirus has been recently recognized as a cause of serious human disease in the southwestern United States and rodents have been identified as the natural reservoir for the virus. This situation warrants recommendations to minimize the risk of exposure to hantavirus through rodents. Although WMRC takes all necessary steps to prevent exposure, users need to be aware of potential risks, both in the buildings and in the field. The following information is obtained primarily from the Center for Disease Control. (CDC) website: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hanta/hps.
RODENTS are the primary reservoir hosts of recognized hantaviruses.
Each hantavirus appears to have preferential rodent hosts, but other small mammals can be infected as well. Available data strongly suggest that the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) is the primary reservoir of the newly recognized hantavirus in the southwestern United States. Serologic evidence of infection has also been found in pi–on mice (P. truei), brush mice (P. boylii), cottonrats (Sigmodon hispidus), and western chipmunks (Tamias spp.). P. maniculatus is highly adaptable and is found in different habitats, including human residences in rural and semirural areas.
Hantaviruses do not cause apparent illness in their reservoir hosts, but infected rodents shed the virus in saliva, urine, and feces for many weeks, and the duration and period of maximum infectivity are unknown. Human infection may occur when infective saliva or excreta are inhaled as aerosols produced directly from the animal. Persons visiting laboratories where infected rodents were housed have been infected after only a few minutes of exposure to animal holding areas. Transmission may also occur when dried or fresh materials contaminated by rodent excreta are disturbed, directly introduced into broken skin, introduced onto the conjunctivae, or possibly, ingested in contaminated food or water. Persons have also become infected after being bitten by rodents.
The primary risk for hantavirus infection at WMRC is exposure to Peromyscus and their excreta.
TO MINIMIZE THE RISK FOR HANTAVIRUS INFECTION, PLEASE FOLLOW THESE PRECAUTIONS:
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HANTAVIRUS PULMONARY SYNDROME?
Symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome usually appear within 2 weeks of infection but can appear as early as 3 days to as late as 6 weeks after infection.
First symptoms are general and flu-like: fever (101-104 F); headache; abdominal, joint, and lower back pain; sometimes nausea and vomiting. However, the primary symptom of this disease is difficulty in breathing, which is caused by fluid build-up in the lungs and quickly progresses to an inability to breathe.
If any combination of the symptoms described above, especially difficulty in
breathing, appear after direct or indirect exposure to rodents, contact your
doctor or public health clinic immediately and be sure to mention your exposure