Man is 1st death in Spokane County linked to hantavirus

In the Northwest, deer mice are the only carriers of this hantavirus strain.
In the Northwest, deer mice are the only carriers of this hantavirus strain. AP

A Spokane County man in his 50s has died from complications of hantavirus disease, the county’s first confirmed death tied to the illness.

Hantavirus is caused by infection usually spread by infected mouse droppings. Washington Department of Health officials said Thursday the man likely came into contact with the virus inside a barn in Adams County.

In the Northwest, deer mice are the only carriers of this hantavirus strain. The greatest risk for exposure occurs when people enter enclosed areas with mice infestation and poor air circulation; through direct contact with hantavirus-infected deer mice, and from saliva, urine, droppings, or nesting material. The disease is not spread from human to human.

The Health Department says this is the state’s fifth case of hantavirus disease in 2017 and third death. The people who died are from Franklin, King, and Spokane counties.

A Skagit County resident contracted the virus in June, and became the first reported case in the county since 2003, according to the Health Department. That resident survived along with another from King County. None have been reported in Whatcom County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following steps to safely clean potentially contaminated areas:

▪ Do not stir up dust by vacuuming, sweeping, or any other dust-generating means.

▪ Wear rubber, latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves.

▪ Thoroughly wet contaminated areas including droppings, dead mice and nests with a bleach solution or household disinfectant. Bleach solution: Mix 1 1/2 cups of household bleach in 1 gallon of water. Use only freshly mixed solution.

▪ Once everything has soaked for 10 minutes, remove all the nest material, mice or droppings with a damp towel, then mop or sponge the area with bleach solution or household disinfectant.

▪ Spray dead rodents with disinfectant, then double-bag along with all cleaning materials and debris. Throw out rodent in an appropriate waste disposal system.

“If you think you’ve been exposed to deer mice watch for symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and shortness of breath for up to eight weeks after exposure,” a news release from the Health Department stated. “If symptoms develop, see your health care provider and mention your exposure to deer mice.”

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