June 24, 2014 5:19 pm

Province confirms first hantavirus death of the year

REGINA – Health officials in Saskatchewan have confirmed the first fatal case of hantavirus in the province for 2014.

The death occurred to an adult in southern Saskatchewan, but officials won’t say where.

Hantavirus is a rare infection that is transmitted by breathing in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings, urine, and saliva of infected deer mice.

Symptoms of hantavirus include fever, muscle aches, cough, headaches, nausea and vomiting.

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In rare cases people can develop a severe and often fatal lung disease known as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome.

“If you develop a fever, muscle aches, coughing and shortness of breath within one to six weeks of exposure to mouse-infested areas, you need to seek immediate medical attention,” Saskatchewan’s Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Denise Werker said.

The chances of contracting hantavirus in the province are low, though residents are reminded that deer mice can be found in all areas of the province.

Since 1994 there have been 27 cases of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome reported in Saskatchewan, nine of which have resulted in death.

Exposure to hantavirus can be reduced by avoiding contact with rodents and contaminated airborne particles.

  • Block openings that might allow rodents to enter a building;
  • Store human and animal food, water and garbage in containers with tightly-fitted lids;
  • Be aware of animal droppings and nesting materials when cleaning a home or other buildings.

When cleaning rodent-infested areas, people are advised to reduce the risk of contaminated air particles becoming airborne, and prevent direct contact and inhalation.

  • Ventilate the building by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes before cleaning;
  • Dampen areas contaminated with rodent droppings with bleach disinfectant and remove droppings with a damp mop or cloth; and
  • Avoid using dry cleaning methods such as dusting, sweeping, vacuuming or air-hosing.
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