Potentially lethal hantavirus reported in Grant County

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GRANT COUNTY — A case of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, a potentially deadly respiratory illness caused by a virus found in the urine, droppings and saliva of infected rodents, has been reported in a young adult in Grant County.

The illness, which began in late April with flu-like symptoms and progressed to respiratory failure requiring a hospital stay, is the first case of HPS reported in Washington this year and the 4th case reported in Grant County in the past decade. The individual survived the illness and is continuing to recover at home.

Another Grant County resident survived hantavirus illness in the spring of 2018 — a reminder that the risk of exposure to hantavirus increases in the spring, according to a press release from the Grant County Health District. The previous two Grant County cases occurred in 2012; both were fatal, the press release stated.

Washington is the fifth-leading state for HPS cases, according to the health district. An average of around two confirmed cases are reported in Washington each year, and eight people died in the state as a result of HPS between 2007 and 2017, according to data from the state Department of Health.

Though cases have occurred throughout the state, most have been reported from counties in central Washington — Grant County alone accounted for two HPS-related deaths in 2012, or a quarter of all deaths during the same period.

Deer mice, the only carriers of the virus in Washington state, are present in all parts of Grant County, according to the health district. A person can get HPS by breathing in hantavirus when dust from dried rodent urine, saliva and droppings that contain the virus is stirred up in the air.

People can also get HPS through direct contact with infected deer mice or by touching rodent urine, droppings, or nesting materials that contain the virus, and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. The greatest risk occurs when people enter enclosed areas with rodent infestation and poor air circulation.

HPS illness usually begins one to six weeks after a person breathes in the virus. Early signs include fever, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting. As the disease gets worse, it causes coughing and shortness of breath, and can lead to respiratory failure. People with hantavirus are usually hospitalized, and about one out of three people diagnosed with HPS have died.

For more information about Hantavirus and how to prevent transmission, visit www.granthealth.org/hantavirus.

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