Denver resident diagnosed with rare hantavirus

Second case in Denver since tracking began in 1993

DENVER – A rare and potentially fatal virus first recognized just over two decades ago has shown up in Denver recently.

Denver health officials announced Tuesday that a resident of the city was recently diagnosed with hantavirus. It’s the second case of the virus in Denver since tracking began in 1993, a news release stated.

The respiratory disease is carried by infected deer mice. But there was no evidence of rodents during an inspection of the infected person’s residence. Still, officials believe the individual contracted the virus in Denver.

According to a press release from Denver Public Health and Environment, hantavirus cannot be spread from person to person or from pets to person. The virus is found in urine, saliva, and droppings of infected deer mice. 

Humans can become infected by breathing in the virus when stirring up dust from mouse nests or mouse droppings in areas with poor ventilation, or when handling or being bitten by mice. 

Hantavirus symptoms usually appear one to two weeks after contraction but can appear as long as eight weeks after exposure to infected rodents or their urine, saliva or droppings. Symptoms include fever, chills, headaches and severe pain in the legs and back.

If you believe you or a family member have been exposed to hantavirus, contact your physician immediately. 

Denver health officials offered the following tips to protect yourself from infection: 

To protect yourself from hantavirus:

  • Keep mice and other rodents away from the living areas of your home.
  • Spray dust, dirt and rodent droppings, and dead rodents with a mixture of bleach and water (1 ½ cups of household bleach to one gallon of water) or other disinfectant. Allow the mixture to sit wet for at least 10 minutes before cleaning.
  • Wear rubber, latex or vinyl gloves and a dust mask when cleaning rodent affected areas. Wash hands with soap and warm water after cleaning areas affected by rodents.
  • Never vacuum or sweep areas where there is evidence of rodent infestation. Clean up debris while it is wet.
  • Remove wood, junk and brush piles near your home. Keep vegetation around the house well-trimmed.
  • Store human food, pet food and bird seed in covered containers.
  • Keep garbage in tightly covered cans.
  • Repair window screens and ensure weather-stripping is tight under all doors.
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