Wild Mice Blamed For Hantavirus

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The Arizona Department of Health is warning rural Arizonans about an increased possibility of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome or HPS after the winter's heavy rains.

The virus is spread by breathing in dust containing the feces, urine or saliva particles of mice and other rodents.

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Cory Houghton, director of marketing at Payson Regional Medical Center.

"The risk is coming into contact with wild mice," said David Engelthaler, Arizona state epidemiologist. "It's (in) Arizona across the board, especially in rural areas around the state."

Engelthaler said the state health department is investigating two cases of HPS, but refused to comment on the areas under question.

Meanwhile, a Valley man, over the weekend, said on KPHO Channel 5, that he'd contracted the disease in Payson.

Cory Houghton, director of marketing at Payson Regional Medical Center said there have been no reported cases of the virus at the hospital.

"We don't know how this gentleman contracted the Hantavirus," Houghton said. "We would like the community to know that we have not treated any patients at Payson Regional Medical Center for the Hantavirus. And in talking to our lab director, no tests have been requested of the hospital laboratory for the Hantavirus."

Some visitors to the hospital were concerned after seeing staff wearing protective clothing, handling an emergency room patient Tuesday.

"We did have a person here in isolation, but they did not have the Hantavirus," Houghton said.

According to Engelthaler, HPS attacks the immune system within two weeks after contact. The physical response is intense, and healthy young people between 20 to 40 are most affected.

"It's those with the complete and healthy immune systems that will respond the strongest," said Engelthaler. "It fills up lungs with fluids."

Symptoms can appear within in week.

"A flu-like illness, high fever and muscles aches and pain," said Engelthaler. "After a few days you'll develop some type of respiratory illness ... difficulty breathing. If you're at this point, you should contact a physician."

To prevent the spread of HPS, make sure to dampen contaminated areas before cleaning -- this keeps the dust settled.

Engelthaler then suggested canvassing the area with a 10-percent chlorine solution or an antibacterial spray, and let it sit for 10 minutes. If you're capturing mice, Engelthaler recommended spraying the carcass with an insecticide, like RAID, to kill fleas. Wait for 10 minutes. Then apply the chlorine solution or antibacterial spray, and let the chemicals soak for another five minutes. Wear rubber gloves.

Engelthaler said no known cure for HPS exists.

For more information, call Arizona Department of Health Services Vector Borne Disease Program at (602)364-4562.

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