Officials warn about hantavirus in wake of death

The death of a Saskatchewan resident from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome last month has prompted health officials to remind people to take precautions.

Citing privacy concerns, officials would say only that the death occurred in an adult in southern Saskatchewan in June.

However, the Western Producer has learned the fatality occurred in a female from southeastern Sask-atchewan.

Hantavirus is contracted by inhaling contaminants from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice, which can be found throughout the province. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, coughing and shortness of breath within one to six weeks of exposure.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is rare but can be deadly.

“The risk of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is the rapid deterioration,” said Dr. Denise Werker, the province’s deputy chief medical health officer.

After experiencing flu-like symptoms, those with the more serious form of the virus will experience severe breathing complications.

“If people go into their cabins that have been closed for the winter, and there have been mice in those cabins, and they open the doors or they start cleaning up and generate dust, then they could actually inhale the virus and become very sick.”

People who are cleaning grain bins, camping, cleaning RVs or boats, moving woodpiles or cleaning outbuildings should take precautions.

Buildings should be ventilated for at least 30 minutes before cleaning. People should wear gloves and use wet mopping to clean rather than dusting, sweeping or vacuuming. Mouse droppings should be dampened with bleach disinfectant and removed with a damp cloth.

Werker said wearing a filter mask is also a good idea.

Twenty-seven cases of hantavirus have been reported in the past 20 years, including nine deaths.

Werker said one-third of the cases were women and two-thirds were men. Men aren’t predisposed to the virus but are more likely to be exposed, she said.

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