First documented case of hantavirus claims the life of 67-year-old NM woman
Santa Fe, NM — The New Mexico Department of Health announced today that a 67-year-old woman from San Juan County has died of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). This is the first case of HPS in New Mexico this year. An environmental investigation will be conducted at the home of the patient to help reduce the risk to others.
“We extend our sympathy to this woman’s family and friends,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “I want all New Mexicans to make sure they follow our prevention guidelines to keep themselves and their families safe from Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome.”
Hantavirus is a deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings or saliva. People can contract the disease when they breathe in aerosolized virus. The deer mouse is the main reservoir for Sin Nombre virus, the Hantavirus strain found in New Mexico.
“People need to be very careful when they are cleaning out sheds, cabins, and other buildings that have been closed up for the winter as mice and other rodents may have moved in,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the department’s public health veterinarian. “Disturbing areas of rodent infestation, including nests and droppings, can cause the virus to be stirred up into the air where the particles can be breathed in. It’s best to air out cabins and sheds before entering them and wet down droppings with a disinfectant.”
The Department of Health urges health-care workers and the general public to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of Hantavirus. Early symptoms of Hantavirus infection include fever and muscle aches, possibly with chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cough which progresses to respiratory distress. These symptoms develop within one to six weeks after rodent exposure. Although there is no specific treatment for HPS, chances for recovery are better if medical attention is sought early.
Important steps to follow to prevent contracting Hantavirus include:
- Trap mice until they are all gone
- Clean up nests and droppings using a disinfectant
- Don’t sweep up rodent droppings into the air where they can be inhaled
- Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home
- Get rid of trash and junk piles
- Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where mice can get to it
In 2013 New Mexico identified three HPS cases including a 12 year-old boy from McKinley County who died in December, a 45 year-old woman from McKinley County who survived and a 73 year-old woman from Santa Fe County who died in October. In 2012, New Mexico reported one case of HPS, which resulted in the death of a 20-year-old woman from Rio Arriba County. In 2011, New Mexico identified 5 cases of HPS. Three of the 5 cases were fatal including a 51-year-old woman from McKinley County, a 35-year-old man from Torrance County, and a 23-year-old man from McKinley County.
Since it was first discovered in 1993, New Mexico has reported a total of 95 lab-confirmed HPS cases with 40 deaths, the highest number of cases for any state in the nation. Nationally, since 1993, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a total of 639 cases with a fatality rate of 36 percent.
For more information about Hantavirus, visit the Department’s website: http://archive.nmhealth.org/ERD/HealthData/hantavirus.shtml