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Front Page » May 6, 2004 » Local News » Hantavirus risks climb as residents focus on spring chore...
Published 4,168 days ago

Hantavirus risks climb as residents focus on spring chores, activities

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Justeen Gonzales and father Ronnie smooth their East Carbon yard for the sod they plan to lay. Public health officials caution people that hantavirus risks mount as the weather warms and people turn their attention to spring cleaning chores along with outdoor activities.

With the arrival of warm weather, Carbon County residents have started tackling indoor and outdoor spring cleaning projects.

But local, state and national health officials caution people to practice preventative measures to alleviate the risks of falling victim to hantavirus.

In addition, obtaining prompt medical treatment for patients infected with the disease is critically important.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a deadly illness transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings or saliva, points out the United States Centers for Disease Control.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome has claimed the lives of several victims in Carbon County.

When fresh rodent urine, droppings or nesting materials are stirred up, tiny droplets containing the virus get into the air.

Human beings contract the disease by breathing in the aerosolized virus, explains the federal public health agency.

Implementing rodent control measures in and around the home remains the primary strategy for preventing hantavirus infection, emphasizes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Recommended preventative practices include:

•Keeping homes, especially kitchens, and store food in rodent-proof containers.

•Covering garbage cans with tight-fitting lids and discarding uneaten pet food at the end of the day.

•Disinfecting infested areas prior to cleaning the sites.

•Setting spring-loaded rodent traps near baseboards and in tight spaces.

•Sealing all entry holes one-fourth inch wide or wider with lath screen or metal, cement, wire screening or patching materials.

•Clearing brush, grass and junk from around foundations to eliminate a source of nesting materials.

•Installing metal flashing around the base of wooden, earthen or adobe structures.

The metal flashing should reach 12 inches above the ground and six inches beneath the surface.

•Elevating hay, woodpiles and garbage cans at locations 100 feet or more from homes.

•Encouraging the presence of natural predators like non-poisonous snakes, owls and hawks.

•Wearing plastic gloves and thoroughly washing hands after completing cleanup of invested sites.

Due to the relatively small number of confirmed hantavirus pulmonary syndrome cases, the disease's incubation time is not positively known, points out the federal health agency.

But on the basis of limited information, the symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome appear to develop between one and five weeks after exposure to the disease, notes the federal health agency.

Early universal symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the thighs, hips, back and sometimes shoulders.

Approximately one-half of the individuals infected with hantavirus experience headaches, dizziness, chills and abdominal problems like as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain during the disease's initial stage.

Between four to 10 days after the initial phase of illness, the late symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome appear, continues the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath along with tightness in the chest as the lungs fill with fluid.

Earache, sore throat, runny nose and rashes are very uncommon symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, emphasizes the federal health agency.

Recapping the recorded history of hantavirus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control explained that an outbreak of unexplained illness occurred in May 1993 in the Four Corners area when a number of previously healthy young adults suddenly developed acute respiratory symptoms.

Nearly one-half of the victims died.

Federal and state public health agencies promptly mounted an intensive investigation into the Four Corners incident, explained the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Medical researchers suspected a form of hantavirus and trapped rodents in the affected area.

The results of tissue studies conducted on the rodents and victims positively identified the virus and principal carrier - the deer mouse.

Present in the U.S. since at least 1959, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome remained unrecognized until the Four Corners outbreak.

But since 1993, the disease has been identified in more than half of the states, concluded the federal health agency.

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