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Michigan records first case of hantavirus

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The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Washtenaw County Health Department confirmed the first human case of hantavirus in its territory. An American woman, originally from Washtenaw County, was hospitalized with a severe lung disease caused by this strain.

The patient felt ill after cleaning an unoccupied apartment full of rodents, where she allegedly became infected. The MDHHS is investigating the case.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in humans was first recorded in 1993 in the southwestern US. Since then, different viruses of the hantavirus family have been reported in other corners of the North American country, as well as in South America.

The contagions are produced by carrying out domestic or other activities that put individuals in contact with infected rodents. Normally, a human being is spread through saliva, urine, or excrement.

You can become infected by inhaling dried rodent droppings, ingesting contaminated food or water, or being bitten by these mammals. In addition, it is dangerous for these substances to enter wounds on the skin or mucous membranes.

At this time, there are no documented cases of person-to-person transmission of hantavirus in the United States.

Most infections occur in closed rooms full of rodents, especially if one is not adequately protected. Usually, it affects adults more. This virus is most active between spring and summer, reports the MDHHS on its website.

“HPS is caused by some strains of hantavirus and is a rare but severe and sometimes fatal respiratory disease that can occur one to five weeks after a person has exposure to fresh urine, droppings or saliva from infected rodents,” details the executive medical director and deputy director of health of the MDHHS, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

Anyone who comes into contact with rodents that carry hantavirus is at risk for HPS and healthcare providers with a suspect case of hantavirus should contact their local health department to report the case and discuss options for confirmatory testing.

Symptoms of this infection include fever, headache, body aches, and chills, among others. The patient also suffers from gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Sometimes, shortness of breath and coughing are reported. This virus has a mortality rate of 40%.

How to protect yourself from hantavirus?

The MDHHS reminds to watch out for rodents.

“We can prevent and reduce the risk of hantavirus infection by taking precautions and being alert to the possibility of it,” advises the medical director of the Washtenaw County Health Department, Dr. Juan Luis Marquez.

It is advisable to ventilate the rooms for at least 30 minutes before entering and wear rubber, latex or other gloves when cleaning rodent-infested areas. In addition, it is necessary to disinfect them beforehand with a disinfectant solution or with bleach.

Hantaviruses are a family of viruses transmitted mainly by wild rodents. They are susceptible to most disinfectants (dilute chlorine solutions, detergents, and household disinfectants, among others).

Image Credit: Getty

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