The Billings Outpost

Hantavirus case reported

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services has confirmed the first case of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) in a Montana resident in 2012. The individual is expected to make a full recovery. Information at this point suggests the individual acquired the disease while in another state. This case is one of 33 HPS cases reported in Montana since 1993. Montana typically sees 1 to 2 cases a year, making the state second only to New Mexico in the number of cases when adjusted for the state’s population. “Montanans should be aware of the precautions they can take to avoid Hantavirus and the rodents that can carry it,” said DPHHS director Anna Whiting Sorrell. “People may be at risk when they come into contact with small rodents and their waste.” Hantavirus cases often increase as the weather warms in the spring. As people begin to clean their garages and sheds, nesting material contaminated with dried saliva, urine, or droppings from infected deer mice is disturbed, becomes airborne, and inhaled. Infections may also occur when these materials are directly introduced into broken skin or into the eyes or mouth. Although rare, persons have also become infected after being bitten by rodents. According to DPHHS State Medical Officer Dr. Steven Helgerson, early symptoms of Hantavirus infection usually start with fever and muscle aches, and sometimes chills, headache, vomiting. Within a few days, symptoms progress to coughing and severe shortness of breath. The symptoms develop one to six weeks after exposure. “Early recognition and immediate medical care are key to surviving the illness,” Helgerson said. “If someone is exposed to rodents and experiences symptoms- especially severe shortness of breath, they need to seek treatment right away.” Be sure to tell your doctor that you have been around rodents. This will alert your physician to look closely for any rodent-carried disease, such as Hantavirus. The best way to prevent Hantavirus transmission is by controlling rodent populations in areas where one lives and works. When cleaning areas where rodents may nest, the following precautions should be followed: • Wear rubber or plastic gloves • Thoroughly spray/soak area with a disinfectant or mixture of bleach and water to reduce dry dusty conditions in the area being cleaned • Wipe or mop the area with a sponge or paper towel (throw away items after use) • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after removing gloves • Never sweep or vacuum in these areas as this can stir up dust and aerosolize the droppings More information on Hantavirus and its prevention can be found at or from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at:

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