The first confirmed human case of Sin Nombre hantavirus has been reported in Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said.
A woman in Washtenaw County was recently hospitalized with a serious pulmonary illness from the virus.
A spokeswoman for the Washtenaw County health department told USA Today that the woman recovered from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and is no longer in the hospital.
Health officials say she was likely exposed when cleaning an unoccupied dwelling that contained signs of an active rodent infestation.
Hantavirus was first discovered to be responsible for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in ill patients in the southwest United States in 1993.
Hantavirus infections are associated with domestic, occupational, or recreational activities that bring humans into contact with infected rodents.
“HPS is caused by some strains of hantavirus and is a rare but severe and sometimes fatal respiratory disease that can occur one to five weeks after a person has exposure to fresh urine, droppings, or saliva from infected rodents,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “Anyone who comes into contact with rodents that carry hantavirus is at risk for HPS and healthcare providers with a suspect case of hantavirus should contact their local health department to report the case and discuss options for confirmatory testing.”
Symptoms of HPS can be non-specific at first and include fever, chills, body aches, headache, and gastrointestinal signs such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The illness can progress to include coughing and shortness of breath.
HPS has a 40% fatality rate.
“We can prevent and reduce the risk of hantavirus infection by taking precautions and being alert to the possibility of it,” says Dr. Juan Luis Marquez, medical director with Washtenaw County Health Department. “Use rubber, latex, vinyl, or nitrile gloves when cleaning areas with rodent infestations, ventilate areas for at least 30 minutes before working, and make sure to wet areas thoroughly with a disinfectant or chlorine solution before cleaning.”
Hantaviruses are a family of viruses spread mainly by wild rodents and occur worldwide.
Several hantaviruses that can infect people have been identified in the U.S. and each hantavirus has a primary rodent host.
The most important hantavirus in the U.S. that causes HPS is the Sin Nombre virus, which is spread by the deer mouse and white-footed mouse.