The first human case of the fatal rat-borne hantavirus was confirmed in Michigan, health officials said on Monday.
Patients are infected with the illness when they take in air carrying the virus through droppings from rodents, the US health officials said, saying it cannot be passed through from one person to the other.
A press release from the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services said that the confirmed case involved a woman in Washtenaw County. Her case is being investigated by the county and state health personnel as she was “recently hospitalized with a serious pulmonary illness from Sin Nombre hantavirus.”
“The individual was likely exposed when cleaning an unoccupied dwelling that contained signs of an active rodent infestation,” part of the release read.
The virus can possibly be transmitted to a human through a lesion caused by an infected rodent, or a bite; and if a person has come in contact with infected rodent urine or saliva, then touches his or her nose or mouth.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also said that the virus can be passed to the person if he or she ingested food infected with the rodent’s droppings, saliva or urine.
A person infected with the virus can manifest symptoms which include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, pain in the abdomen, and chills, among others. The symptoms of the illness, which has about 40 percent fatality rate, can develop into cough and shortness of breath.
“We can prevent and reduce the risk of hantavirus infection by taking precautions and being alert to the possibility of it,” Washtenaw County Health Department director Dr. Juan Luis Marquez, said. “Use rubber, latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves when cleaning areas with rodent infestations, ventilate areas for at least 30 minutes before working, and make sure to wet areas thoroughly with a disinfectant or chlorine solution before cleaning.”