Wet weather could increase virus risk
Spring rains could mean a greater danger of hantavirus this year.The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported the state’s first case of the acute respiratory disease in early April. A La Plata County man was hospitalized in mid-March with an illness later confirmed as hantavirus. “This early-season case serves as a reminder for people to take simple precautions to avoid exposure to hantavirus when opening cabins and doing spring cleaning,” said John Pape, an epidemiologist with the health department. “It is expected that mouse populations may be high this year due to the increased moisture in many areas of the state.” Recent moisture has caused a lush growth of plants. “More food equals more mice,” Pape said. In fact, this year could see a population boom in deer mice.Hantavirus is carried by deer mice, which are found throughout Colorado and most commonly in rural areas. Mice release the virus in their urine and feces. Humans contract the disease not by direct contact with deer mice but by breathing in the dust stirred up in sheds, trailers, cabins, or any place infested with mice. Although the disease is well-known, a variant was discovered in the Four Corners area in 1993 when a Navajo man and his girlfriend died of respiratory failure within one week of each other.The last case reported in this area was in 1998 when a Wolcott man was diagnosed with hantavirus. In 1994 a Glenwood Springs man died of the disease after cleaning under a trailer, said county public health nurse Mary Meisner. In 2004, there were four cases in Colorado, including one death.Pape said people should be especially careful if they notice a high number of mice as evidenced by droppings or nests, mouse damage or live mice.”As people begin cleaning out barns, garages, storage buildings, trailers or cabins that have been closed up all winter, they need to take precautions before beginning such work, particularly if there are signs of mice,” Pape said.Vail, Colorado
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