Take precautions against hantavirusJAMESTOWN, N.D. - Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is rare in North Dakota; that is the good news.
By: Keith Norman The Jamestown Sun, Worthington Daily Globe
JAMESTOWN, N.D. - Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is rare in North Dakota; that is the good news.
The bad news is that six people have died in the 10 cases that have occurred in the state in the last 15 years. The most recent case occurred in August and took the life of a 29-year-old Hettinger man.
“The risk of contracting hantavirus comes when you are around mice droppings,” said Robin Iszler, administrator for the Central Valley Health District. “When the rodent urine, droppings or nesting material is stirred up, tiny droplets containing the virus get into the air. If people breathe this in, they can become infected.”
Because the disease is related to rodent droppings and dust it is sometimes thought of as an occupational hazard of the farm industry. However, the disease can strike anyone who spends time in confined spaces where mice are present.
“If a farmer is cleaning grain bins before the harvest they need to take precautions,” said Deanna Van Bruggen, public information officer for Central Valley Health District. “But anytime you’re in a dusty environment where mice might be present, whether it is a grain bin, old barn or old house, you need to take precautions.”
The principle precaution suggested is to not sweep or vacuum the dusty surfaces but to wet the area down with a mix of bleach and water and then remove the wet material. This includes wetting the dirt floors of barns and other outbuildings and is done to keep the dust down and disinfect the area.
Other precautions include wearing disposable clothing, controlling the mouse population and ventilating the area while working.
“Wearing a dust mask is not recommended as a precaution,” Iszler said. “The virus is so small it would go through the fabric of most masks available to the public.”
Symptoms of hantavirus are similar to many diseases and usually occur one to five weeks after exposure. Fatigue, fever, muscle ache, headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea and diarrhea are the initial symptoms. Four to 10 days after the onset the disease moves into a severe, and often fatal, respiratory phase including coughing and shortness of breath. The disease is not contagious from person to person.
Because the early symptoms are common to many diseases, and because hantavirus is rare, it is suggested that patients tell their doctor if they feel they have been exposed to the virus when seeking treatment.