Late spring and early summer are the prime seasons for hantavirus, which causes hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). The virus, carried by deer mice, is passed to people as they begin spring cleaning and outdoor activities like camping and hiking. Last year, there was one reported case of HPS in Rhode Island.
The virus lives in mouse urine, feces and saliva, and is transmitted when people stir up these and then breathe traces of them in the air. It also may be possible to get HPS by touching objects that have traces of infected body fluids on them and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth, or eating food that is contaminated. In rare cases, people bitten by infected mice have developed the disease. People who have the disease can't infect other people.
HPS is a fast-moving disease. Although symptoms may not develop for 1-5 weeks, once they do, patients usually require hospitalization within 24 hours. Almost half of all cases result in death. Symptoms include:
If you have symptoms and think you may have HPS, contact your physician immediately. The earlier you receive treatment, the better the chances are for survival. Remember to tell your doctor you may have had contact with mice or mice byproducts.
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