Health officials confirmed the first case in Michigan of people with the hantavirus Sin Nombre on Monday.
The woman was probably infected while cleaning a home that had been uninhabited for about two years, according to Susan Ringler-Ink, a spokeswoman for the Washington County Health Department.
“We believe that the man was exposed during the cleaning of the house. The fecal matter … from the infection was probably carried into the air during cleaning and was inhaled by the individual, “she said.
The woman was hospitalized and treated for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), a disease caused by the virus, but she recovered and was no longer in the hospital, Ringler-Cerniglia.
Officials say the infection is rare, but still urges others to contact the local health department if they need to report a case. Here̵
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What is the hantavirus Sin Nombre?
Hantaviruses are a family of viruses that are spread by rodents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hantaviruses can be spread to humans through an aerosolized virus that rodents excrete in their urine, feces and saliva. The virus can cause hantavirus lung syndrome (HPS), which is a severe and sometimes fatal respiratory disease.
Each hantavirus is spread through a specific rodent. The Sin Nombre virus is spread by the deer mouse.
The researchers made this discovery while studying the origins of the hantavirus outbreak in 1993 in an area shared between Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah known as the “Four Corners.” The researchers also concluded that the virus was unlikely to be transmitted between humans.
In rare cases, another hantavirus – called the Andean virus – has been transmitted from person to person in Chile and Argentina, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Sin Nombre virus is the most common hantavirus in the country, said Dr. Tony Shuntz, a professor of microbiology at Colorado State University.
“It’s the virus we have mostly here in the West,” he said. “What makes the West so special is that it’s so dry and makes it easier to aerosolize the virus.”
On Tuesday, Nevada reported its 14th case of hantavirus since 2005, but it is unclear whether the disease was caused by the Sin Nombre virus.
From 1993 to 2017, there were only 728 confirmed cases of hantavirus in the United States, most of which were non-fatal, according to the CDC. Shuntz estimates that the Sin Nombre virus makes up about 600 of them.
Experts see cases as early as February, but tend to peak in the spring and summer, he said. Most cases are found in adults.
Symptoms of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)
Early symptoms of HPS include fatigue, fever, and muscle aches, especially in large muscle groups such as the thighs, hips, back, and sometimes the shoulders, according to the CDC. Half of the patients experience headache, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Coughing and shortness of breath can occur later in the disease as the lungs fill with fluid, the agency said. Shuntz said the heart can also be affected by HPS, as it works overtime to raise blood pressure, which drops from plasma leakage into tissues.
“It can be a long and difficult recovery from this infection because it can cause significant damage to the body,” he said.
There is no specific treatment, cure or vaccine for hantavirus infection.
Is the hantavirus Sin Nombre deadly?
Hantaviruses have a high mortality rate, with about 36% of people dying from HPS, according to the CDC. That’s because people don’t usually catch the virus early to treat it, Shuntz said.
“This is key to the immediate introduction of these patients to the right treatment regimen. “If that happens, there’s a really good chance you’ll survive,” he said. “The problem is that a lot of people wait until it’s too late and show up in the emergency room with fluid that’s already building up in their lungs.”
Health experts are urging Americans to avoid infection by staying away from places where rodents leave feces, or by wearing rubber gloves and a mask that covers your nose and face during exposure to mice.
“Reindeer mice are everywhere, and you have to assume that some of them are infected wherever they are,” Shuntz said. “You must take appropriate precautions when entering their habitat.”
Contributions: Ryan Miller, USA TODAY, and Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press. Follow Adriana Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
Patient health and safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Health Ethics, Innovation and Competition. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial data.
This article originally appeared in USA TODAY: Sin Nombre hantavirus: Michigan reports the first human case. What to know