Michigan reports 1st human case of hantavirus

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Michigan's health department reported the state's first human case of Sin Nombre hantavirus in a Washtenaw County woman June 7. People can contract the disease when exposed to the excrements of infected mice. 

The woman is recovering after being hospitalized with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a severe respiratory disease caused by some strains of the hantavirus, and was likely exposed while cleaning an unoccupied residential dwelling that had signs of a rodent infestation, the health department said. 

"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," said Joneigh Khaldun, MD, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. "Anyone who comes into contact with rodents that carry hantavirus is at risk for HPS and healthcare providers with a suspect case of hantavirus should contact their local health department to report the case and discuss options for confirmatory testing." 

To reduce the risk of hantavirus infection, health officials recommend wearing gloves when cleaning areas with rodent infestations, allowing such areas to ventilate before working, and using disinfectant.

The U.S. has identified several hantaviruses, each with a primary rodent host. The Sin Nombre virus, which causes HPS, is the most dangerous important hantavirus in the U.S., and is spread by deer mice and white footed mice, according to the CDC. The viruses are not spread from person to person. 

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