NEWS RELEASE-Immediate Release

2016

TCRHCC Confirms First Hantavirus
Death of 2016

Tuba City, Arizona - Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation and Navajo Nation officials confirmed today that a Navajo Nation resident from Coconino County recently died from complications of Hantavirus Cardiopulmonary Syndrome (HCPS). Hantavirus is a rare but potentially deadly disease spread by infected rodent droppings.

“It is a very unfortunate incident, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the affected family, as well as our staff that worked intensely, to no avail to have a better outcome for this individual,” said Lynette Bonar, Chief Executive Officer at Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation.

It is not known at this time where the individual contracted hantavirus. Hantavirus has been documented in 34 of the 50 states with the majority of the cases occurring in the Four Corners area. Studies in Arizona have shown that wild mice throughout the state have been infected with hantavirus. The deer mouse is the most commonly infected rodent. Human cases have occurred in all months of the year, but the greatest number of cases has been documented in the spring and summer months. There is evidence that periods of high rain and snowfall, such as El Ni?no weather patterns, are associated with increased cases of hantavirus infection. ]

Hantavirus is transmitted to humans when they breathe in air contaminated with the virus. If fresh rodent droppings, urine or nesting materials from infected animals are stirred up, tiny droplets containing the virus get into the air. This process is known as “airborne transmission” (www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/hps/transmission.html). Anyone that comes into contact with the rodents that carry hantavirus is at risk of developing HCPS. The greatest potential risk for contracting hantavirus comes from exposure to mouse droppings in enclosed areas such as cabins, sheds and outbuildings. There have been no documented human to human transmissions.

The incubation period for developing symptoms after exposure can vary between 7 days and 3 weeks. Once a person is infected, the illness begins with fever, headache and muscle aches. This period is known as the prodromal phase and may also include chills, dizziness and abdominal problems such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. At this stage, hantavirus infection can be much like “the flu” and only a medical exam and laboratory tests can help to tell the difference between the two illnesses.. Hantavirus can then rapidly progress to severe respiratory disease (HCPS) and has proven fatal in many cases. Early diagnosis and rapid transfer to a critical care facility has been shown to reduce the fatality rate. There is currently no vaccine or cure for Hantavirus infection, but steps can be taken to reduce the risk of getting the disease.

The overall U.S. death rate for patients with HCPS in the last two decades has been over 30%. Since January 2006, there have been 4 confirmed cases, including this case, in Coconino County. Two of these cases have resulted in deaths due to complications. During this time there have been 37 probable or confirmed hantavirus cases in Arizona, 16 of which have resulted in death.

To prevent hantavirus infection and the resultant HCPS, public health officials recommend the following:

Proper clean-up methods for areas that may have rodent activity:

  • Open all doors and windows and leave them open for 30 minutes before cleaning
  • Do not stir up dust by vacuuming, sweeping, or any other means.
  • When rodent/mouse droppings or nests are found in and around the home, spray them liberally with a 10% bleach solution, a phenol-type spray such as Lysol, or other chemicals labeled to kill viruses to disinfect the area and material and allow them to soak at least 15 minutes. Rodent nests and droppings should also be sprayed with a pesticide to kill fleas before disinfecting or disposing of carcasses.
  • After disinfecting, wear rubber gloves and a mask to clean up the droppings with disposable materials such as paper towels or rags.
  • Seal all materials, droppings or nests in double plastic bags and dispose of them in the trash.

Rodent-proof your home:

  • Prevent rodents from entering the home by plugging or sealing all holes and gaps to the outside that are larger than ¼ inch. Use steel wool, thick wire screen, metal flashing or cement to seal holes.
  • Eliminate or reduce potential rodent shelters from around your home by removing outdoor junk and clutter, and by moving woodpiles, lumber, hay bales, etc, as far away from your home as possible.
  • Do not make food easily available to rodents. Do not leave pet food in dishes. Dispose of garbage in trash cans with tight fitting lids.

For more information regarding hantavirus and HCPS, call TCRHCC Infection Prevention at (928)606-2825 or the Navajo Nation Epidemiology Center at (928) 871-6265. Navajo Nation Department of Health at (928) 871-6350

You can obtain more information by visiting these sites:

www.cdc.gov/hantavirus

www.coconino.az.gov/health

www.azdhs.gov/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/vector-borne-zoonotic-diseases

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