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News from Wyoming Department of Health

Hantavirus Death Reported in Southeast Wyoming


A Carbon County man’s late October death was due to hantavirus, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

Dr. Tracy Murphy, state epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health, said rodent exposure is a very real risk factor for the disease. “Rodent infestation in and around the home and in outbuildings such as barns is the primary risk for hantavirus exposure,” he said.

Iinfected rodents shed the virus through urine, droppings and saliva. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is transmitted to humans when dried, contaminated materials are disturbed. “Typically in these cases, humans become infected by breathing in the infectious aerosols that result,” Murphy said.

“While hantavirus is uncommon, it should not be forgotten,” said Kathleen Vernon-Kubichek, Albany County coroner. “Hantavirus is clearly a dangerous and often deadly disease.” The man, who experienced rodent exposure, died in an Albany County hospital.

Initial hantavirus symptoms are severe muscle aches and fatigue, followed by difficulty breathing, headaches and dizziness, chills, and often vomiting and diarrhea.

Suggestions for safe and proper cleanup of rodent-infested areas include:

·   During cleaning, wear rubber, latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves. Spray gloves with disinfectant before removing and wash hands with soap and water after removing.

·   Spray rodent urine and droppings with a disinfectant or 10 percent bleach solution until soaked, then wipe or mop clean.

·   To avoid generating potentially infectious aerosols, do not vacuum or sweep rodent urine, droppings, nesting materials or contaminated surfaces.

·   Wash any bedding or clothing with laundry detergent in hot water if you see rodent urine or droppings. Do not shake off.

·   If the building has been closed and unoccupied for a long time, open doors and windows for at least 30 minutes before beginning work.

Nine HPS cases have been reported to the Wyoming Department of Health since 2000. Two unrelated 2008 cases in Carbon County resulted in death.  In Wyoming, the deer mouse is the primary carrier of hantavirus.

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