Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department has confirmed a case of hantavirus in the nine-county health district. This is the first reported case of hantavirus in the southwest Nebraska area in over six years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hantavirus infection is usually found in rural areas where forest, fields and farms offer suitable habitat for rodents. Hantavirus in the US is spread to people from rodents like mice, most commonly when fresh rodent urine, droppings, or nesting materials are stirred up. Tiny droplets containing the virus get into the air and are then breathed in.

“This can easily happen when cleaning out grain bins, barns or old abandoned buildings,” said Melissa Propp, RN.

Symptoms of hantavirus usually start out with vague flu-like symptoms approximately several days to 6 weeks after exposure. A fever for 3-5 days, headache, muscle aches, chills, non-productive cough, nausea, vomiting or other gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or abdominal pain are common. Tiredness and lightheadedness may also be present. Most people recover fully but some cases of hantavirus may be severe or even fatal. “If you have flu-like symptoms and have cleaned out a building with evidence of rodents, alert your provider,” states Propp.

It is important not to stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming. Hantavirus can be prevented by following these tips:

Air out the building for a least thirty minutes prior to starting your cleaning. Open doors and windows to allow good air flow and leave the area while airing out.

Wear gloves while cleaning up urine and droppings. A dust mask may also be worn as additional protection.

Dampen the urine, droppings and nesting materials with a mixture of 1-part bleach to 10 parts water or use a disinfectant. Allow to soak for 5 minutes prior to removal.

Clean counters, cupboards and other surfaces with disposable towels.

Mop floors rather than sweeping or vacuuming.

For dirt floors wet the area down with bleach solution or disinfectant before removal of debris to keep down the dust.

Disinfect any tools used in the cleaning process with a bleach solution.

Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after cleaning tools and disposing of materials.

For more information about hantavirus visit cdc.gov/hantavirus/hps/index.html

Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department serves Chase, Dundy, Frontier, Furnas, Hayes, Hitchcock, Keith, Perkins and Red Willow counties. For more information call Melissa Propp at 308-345-4223.

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