Monday, May 16, 2011

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

Maine CDC was recently notified of the first documented case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in a Maine resident. This resident had not traveled outside of Maine and was reported to have exposures known to be associated with hantavirus.

HPS was first identified in 1993 following an outbreak of unexplained severe pulmonary illness among residents of the southwestern United States. HPS is a serious and life-threatening viral disease (fatality rate approximately 30-40%) that is transmitted to humans by exposure to infected rodents. Only certain kinds of mice and rats can give people hantaviruses that cause HPS. In North America, they are the deer mouse, the white-footed mouse, the rice rat, and the cotton rat but not every mouse or rat will carry the virus.

Early symptoms of HPS include fatigue, fever, chills, and muscle aches especially in the thighs, hips, back, and shoulders. There may also be headaches, dizziness, and abdominal complaints including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Four to ten days after the initial symptoms, patients experience coughing and shortness of breath as the lungs fill with fluid. There is no specific treatment or cure. Medical care is supportive in nature.

Humans become infected after breathing fresh aerosolized urine, droppings, saliva, or nesting materials of infected rodents or when these materials are directly introduced into broken skin, the nose, or the mouth. If a rodent with the virus bites someone, the virus may be spread to that person, but this is rare. HPS in the United States has not been demonstrated to be transmitted from person to person.

HPS can be prevented by:

· Keeping mice and rats out of your home.

· Cleaning up mouse and rat urine, droppings, and nesting materials with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water.

· Do not sweep or vacuum up rodent urine, droppings, or nests as this will cause virus particles to go into the air where they can be breathed in.

  • For more information on hantavirus, visit the Maine CDC website or the US CDC website.

  • For more information on prevention of hantavirus infection and precautions for limiting household, recreational, and occupational exposures, see

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