ST. GEORGE — A Utah woman has died of a hantavirus infection, the Utah County Health Department announced Tuesday. It is the second hantavirus death reported in Utah this year.
Hantavirus is a virus carried by rodents which can be passed to humans and cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, according to health officials.
Although the woman’s identity was not immediately released, the health department said in a statement that the Utah County woman was between the ages of 18 and 44 and the woman had no other apparent health issues.
The woman’s death is the second one related to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in the state this year, and the tenth case since 2006, according to the health department.
Hantavirus is a recently recognized disease of the lungs. This disease is rare and symptoms are much like those of influenza infection, followed by difficulty in breathing. The disease can lead to symptoms such as fever, headaches, stomach problems, dizziness and chills, and is caused by exposure to diseased rodents.
Hantavirus is usually spread by breathing air contaminated with the virus, which is in the droppings, urine and saliva of infected rodents, officials said. It can also be transmitted if an infected rodent bites a person, or by eating food contaminated with urine, droppings or saliva from an infected rodent.
If not properly treated and identified, hantavirus can be fatal.
“HSP has a high death rate, and has been fatal in over one-third of cases reported,” the health department said. “However, patients who fully recover from the disease do not experience lasting effects or complications.”
The Utah County Health Department offered the following tips for preventing hantavirus exposure:
“Seal Up, Trap Up and Clean Up” by following these important steps:
- Air out closed-up buildings before entering
- 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
If you do notice a rodent problem and want to prevent infestations, there are several steps you can take:
- Seal holes inside and outside the home
- Trap rodents around the home
- Clean up rodent food sources and nesting sites by tightly storing all food, pet food, trash and animal feed
- Get rid of possible nesting sites outside the home by moving woodpiles far from the house, keeping grass and shrubbery well-trimmed.
- Elevate hay and trash at least one foot off the ground
To properly clean up after rodents, trap all live rodents and seal entryways. After one week of trapping, if no additional rodents are captured, enough time has passed that the urine, droppings and nesting materials are no longer infectious. When cleaning:
- Wear gloves to clean urine and droppings and soak the droppings with bleach before picking up with paper towel
- Clean and disinfect the whole area
- For heavy infestations, use gloves, goggles, protective clothing and a respirator
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