Hantavirus infects 5 — leading to 1 death — in New Mexico

The New Mexico Department of Health has reported three new cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The virus has so far infected five individuals in the region in 2023. One person has died and the other four have required hospitalization. 

The hospitalized individuals have experienced severe symptoms, sometimes leading to treatment in intensive care units, but so far they have ultimately been able to return home after receiving care, according to an April 13 news release from the health department. 

The infections were not transmitted person to person, and "all of the people are unrelated, occurring in different locations in the Four Corners region," the state reported.

Hantavirus is a zoonotic disease commonly found in rodent feces, urine and saliva and spreads to humans through breathing air infected with virus particles or when touching one's eyes, nose or mouth after touching feces or urine that contains the virus. 

Since tracking of the virus began in 1993, the CDC reported that as of 2020, the U.S. has had 833 human cases. New Mexico, followed by Colorado, account for the most infections. 

"Early symptoms of HPS infection may look and feel like the flu or a 'stomach bug,'" according to the New Mexico Department of Health. "Symptoms typically develop within one to six weeks after rodent exposure, and although there is no specific treatment for HPS, chances for recovery are better if medical attention is sought early and the healthcare provider is given a report about environmental contact with rodents."

New Mexico has seen 51 deaths since 1975 as a result of hantavirus.

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