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Washoe County resident dies due to hantavirus

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A Washoe County resident who had contracted hantavirus has died, according to county officials.

According to the Washoe County Health District, it is the second case of hantavirus in 2017. The first case was reported in September -- the county's first case of hantavirus since 2006.

Washoe County has never recorded more than one case in a single year, officials say.

According to the health district, the resident more than likely contracted the virus while working in an enclosed area, garage, barn or shed in the south Reno area, where residents are reporting heavy rodent activity.

It is the first recorded death of a Washoe County resident associated with the hantavirus since 1995, according to officials.

“A human case of hantavirus is extremely rare, but when it does occur, it can be deadly,” said Dr. Randall Todd, Director of the Washoe County Health District Epidemiology Program. CDC statistics indicate that on average 38 percent of hantavirus cases are fatal. “This fatality, the first in over 20 years, indicates the seriousness of this virus. We urge everyone to take precautions when cleaning, working, or recreating in areas where mouse droppings and/or urine may have collected. When waste particles are aerosolized by cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming, or tramping, and those particles are breathed in, people are at risk for contracting the virus.”

The health district says there are specific guidelines when cleaning in areas with mouse activity:

  • Do not stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming up rodent dropping, urine or nesting materials;
  • Always spray the area being cleaned with a disinfectant and let it set for five minutes before starting to work;
  • Wear protective clothing like gloves and a face mask to keep from touching and breathing in viral particles;
  • Set out traps to kill mice and other rodents;
  • Double-bag dead rodents in plastic sacks before disposing of them in the garbage; and,
  • Identify and plug openings that may allow rodents entry. A deer mouse can fit through an opening the size of a nickel. Plug holes using steel wool and put caulk around the steel wool to keep it in in place.

Todd said those who are healthier will hyper react when contracted with the disease.

Todd said, "So younger people with very robust immune systems could also be at higher risk. They're body is exposed to this virus and is having an almost an allergic reaction to it that causes the death or the lungs to start to fill up with fluids."

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