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Front Page » May 3, 2005 » Local News » U.S. Disease Control Agency Outlines Precautionary Steps ...
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U.S. Disease Control Agency Outlines Precautionary Steps to Limit Hantavirus Exposure


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By LYNNDA JOHNSON
Sun Advocate editor


Storage areas provide prime rodent habitat. When cleaning private dwellings, businesses and enclosed outbuildings, Carbon County residents should exercise caution to avoid becoming exposed to hauntavirus.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a relatively rare, but deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings or saliva.

Humans contract the disease by breathing in the aerosolized virus and the disease has claimed several lives in the Castle Valley region.

Rodent infestation represents the primary risk for hantavirus exposure and controlling the deer mice population remains the primary strategy for preventing the infection in the Carbon County area.

Local residents working, playing or residing in closed rodent infested spaces face the greatest risk of exposure to hantavirus, emphasizes the United States Centers for Disease Control.

Cleaning cabins, sheds or outbuildings like barns, garages and storage facilities poses a significant risk for infection, especially in rural settings.

In addition, construction, utility and pest control workers as well as campers and hikers can be exposed to the disease when entering infected rodent habitats.

Approximately one-half of all hantavirus pulmonary syndrome patients experience several universal symptoms during the initial stage of the illness.

The universal symptoms include fatigue and fever as well as muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups.

The large muscle groups include the thighs, hips, back and shoulders.

Infected individuals may also experience headaches, dizziness, chills and abdominal problems like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

Four to 10 days after the initial phase of the disease, the late symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome appear. The advance symptoms of the illness include coughing and shortness of breath, followed by a tight sensation in the chest as the lungs fill with fluid.

Earache, sore throat, runny nose and rash are uncommon symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

Due to the small number of verified hantavirus pulmonary syndrome cases, the incubation period of the disease is not positively known, pointed out the federal health agency.

But based on limited information, the symptoms may develop between one and five weeks after exposure to the urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents.

A lipid or fatty envelope surrounds hantaviruses, explained the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Fat solvents like alcohol, disinfectants and household bleach destroy the lipid envelope and kill or reduce the chance the virus will get into the air.

The federal health agency advises Carbon County residents to follow several recommendations to prevent exposure to hantavirus.

The precautionary measures include:

•Eliminating or minimizing contact with rodents in private residences, workplaces, campsites and outlying buildings.

•Sealing holes or gaps in homes and garages.

•Placing traps to decrease rodent infestations.

•Storing all food in sealed containers.

•Properly airing and cleaning infested areas.

•Opening and airing out enclosed buildings or rooms before cleaning.

Residents should put on latex rubber gloves and avoid stirring up dust by sweeping or vacuuming droppings, urine or nesting materials.

Instead, people should thoroughly wet contaminated areas with a detergent or liquid to deactivate the virus.

Most general purpose disinfectants and household detergents are effective, noted the federal health agency.

In addition, a hypochlorite solution prepared by mixing one and one-half cups of household bleach in one gallon of water provides and adequate replacement for commercial disinfectants.

The CDC's special pathogens branch recommends using a 10 percent bleach solution to inactivate hantaviruses.

After thoroughly wetting and removing contaminated materials with a damp towel, residents should mop or sponge the site with disinfectant.

People should spray dead rodents with disinfectant, then double-bag the carcasses along with all cleaning materials and bury, burn or discard the items in appropriate waste disposal system.

Finally, residents should disinfect the gloves before removing, then thoroughly wash the hands with soap and warm water.

Medical researchers and scientists first recognized hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in 1993 when an outbreak of unexplained illnesses occurred in the Four Corners shared by Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.

After a number of young adults suddenly developed acute respiratory symptoms, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado health officials along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control mounted an intensive investigation into the matter.

Nearly one-half of the patients succumbed to the illness.

Suspecting a form of hantavirus, the researchers focused on identifying the connection between the victims and the rodents carrying the disease.

Health officials trapped rodents in the affected area, studying the tissue of the animals and the victims until the researchers positively identified the virus along with the disease's principal carrier.

The research results confirmed the deer mouse as the primary host to the previously unknown type of hantavirus.

Approximately 30 percent of the deer mice trapped by investigators showed evidence of hantavirus.

The testing also indicated that several other types of rodents were infected with the disease, although in lesser numbers.

In November 1993, the specific hantavirus responsible for the Four Corners outbreak was isolated by the CDC's special pathogens unit.

Isolating the virus in a matter of months was based on the cooperation of all agencies involved in investigating the Four Corners outbreak, noted the disease control center.

By comparison, it took several decades for researchers to isolate the first discovered hantavirus.

Medical researchers and scientists subsequently determined that the hantavirus isolated in connection with the outbreak had been present, but unrecognized at least as early as 1959.

The disease has since been identified at locations throughout the U.S., concluded the federal health agency.



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