Hantavirus Case Investigated in Washington State

This may be the third recently confirmed case. The chance of being exposed to hantavirus is greatest when people work, play, or live in closed spaces where rodents are actively living.

King County (Wash.) Public Health is investigating a new suspected case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in an Issaquah, Wash., woman in her 50s, authorities announced April 4. They reported test results were expected shortly and an investigation is under way to determine how and where the person, who was hospitalized as of April 4, may have been exposed to the deer mice that carry hantavirus. In Washington state, the only rodents that spread hantavirus are deer mice, which live in woodland areas and deserts.

In February 2017, a man from Issaquah in his 30s contracted hantavirus and later died. Both cases lived near Squak Mountain but in different neighborhoods. And last November, a woman was exposed to deer mice near her home in Redmond, Wash., and contracted HPS but survived, according to the agency, which reported it does not believe the two cases in Issaquah are related, but there are reports of increased numbers of deer mice seen in the area.

"If this third case of HPS is confirmed, it suggests that certain areas of the county are at increased risk compared to past years," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. "People who live near wooded areas where deer mice are common should take steps to keep rodents out of the home and other structures and take precautions when cleaning up rodent nests and potentially contaminated spaces. Anyone who has had exposure to rodent nests or areas where rodents are living and who develops symptoms should see a health care provider promptly."

The chance of being exposed to hantavirus is greatest when people work, play, or live in closed spaces where rodents are actively living. "Many people who have contracted HPS reported that they had not seen rodents or their droppings before becoming ill. Therefore, if you live in an area where the deer mice are known to live, take precautions to prevent rodent infestations even if you do not see rodents or their droppings," according to the agency.

If the suspect case is confirmed to be HPS, Public Health will continue investigating how and where the woman most likely became infected and will be consulting with the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife to provide information on the ecology of deer mice locally. Before 2016, the last case of hantavirus infection acquired in King County was in 2003; there have been three other cases reported to Public Health since 1997 where the people were thought to have been infected outside King County.

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