On Monday, health officials in Michigan reported the first confirmed case of a human case of the deadly hantavirus.
Rat-borne disease, which U.S. health officials say cannot be transmitted from person to person, is usually transmitted to patients when they inhale air contaminated with the virus through rodent droppings.
The confirmed case, investigated by county and state health officials, includes a woman in Washton County, “recently hospitalized with severe lung disease from the hantavirus Sin Nombre,” the Michigan Department of Health and Humanitarian Services said in a statement. “The individual was probably exposed during the cleaning of an uninhabited dwelling, which contains signs of active infection with rodents.”
It is also possible to contract the virus by being bitten by an infected rodent or if people touch something that has been contaminated with rodent urine, feces or saliva and then touch their own nose or mouth. It is also possible to contract the virus by eating food contaminated with feces from infected rodents, urine or saliva, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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Michigan officials explained that hantavirus was first linked to pulmonary hantavirus syndrome in sick patients in the southwestern United States in 1993, although the earliest case involved a man from Utah in 1959, according to the CDC. Most infections have been reported in adults and occur in spring and summer.
Symptoms of the disease include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, as well as headache, dizziness, chills and abdominal pain. Late symptoms can include cough and shortness of breath, and the disease has about 40% mortality. Several of the symptoms mimic the symptoms of COVID-19.
“We can prevent and reduce the risk of hantavirus infection by taking precautions and being alert for the possibility,” said Dr. Juan Luis Marquez, medical director of the Washington County Health Department. “Use rubber, latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves when cleaning rodent infestation areas, ventilate the area for at least 30 minutes before work, and be sure to thoroughly clean the area with disinfectant or chlorine solution before cleaning.”
Fox News’s Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.