America has in many ways begun its return to normal as the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be winding down. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that just 325 patients nationwide died from the virus between May 27 and June 2.
Of course, COVID-19 is far from the only public health risk — and Michigan authorities say that an individual in that state was recently hospitalized after becoming infected with a much deadlier virus.
“Became airborne during cleaning”
According to the Detroit Free Press, a Washtenaw County woman tested positive for the Sin Nombre hantavirus and exhibited symptoms consistent with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
The virus is commonly spread through contact with rodent saliva or urine.
In addition to inhaling particles of mouse excrement, transmission can occur through cuts in a person’s skin or by bites from infected animals.
County health department spokesperson Susan Ringler-Cerniglia said the patient was likely exposed to the virus after cleaning an unoccupied house known to be infested with mice.
“We believe the individual was exposed when cleaning out the dwelling,” she said. “Fecal matter … from the infestation likely became airborne during cleaning and was inhaled by the individual.”
“Very rare and can be avoided”
Despite the risk, Ringler-Cerniglia said that the “infection is still considered very rare and can be avoided, even with significant infestations, with precautions when cleaning.”
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the county’s chief medical executive, released a statement including a warning of the dangers associated with the syndrome.
“HPS is caused by some strains of hantavirus and is a rare but severe and sometimes fatal respiratory disease that can occur one to five weeks after a person has exposure to fresh urine, droppings or saliva from infected rodents,” she said, explaining that fever, chills, body aches, headache, and gastrointestinal issues are frequent symptoms.
“Anyone who comes into contact with rodents that carry hantavirus is at risk for HPS and health care providers with a suspect case of hantavirus should contact their local health department to report the case and discuss options for confirmatory testing,” Khaldun said.
It was unclear from initial reports what the infected patient’s condition was, but HPS comes with a roughly 40% fatality rate.