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DHS news release

May 20, 2005

Contacts: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180

Jeremy Long, Washington County (503) 846-4734

Technical contact: Emilio DeBess, D.V.M. (503) 731-4024


Hantavirus confirmed in Oregon; sixth case in 10 years



A case of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome has been confirmed in a Washington County resident, public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) and Washington County Department of Health & Human Services said today.


The individual is recovering at home, according Emilio DeBess, D.V.M., DHS public health veterinarian.


This is the Oregon's sixth reported case of Hantavirus; five cases were reported between 1993 and 1997. Washington state has reported 28 cases since 1993.


"Hantavirus cases are rare both in Oregon and around the nation," said DeBess. "But it can be a deadly disease, and we want people to know there are precautions they can take to avoid being exposed to the virus."


Rodents such as deer mice or wild mice may carry Hantavirus and excrete the virus in urine, droppings and saliva. People can be infected by inhaling concentrated virus particles that become airborne when rodent droppings or nests are disturbed.


The first signs of illness appear one to six weeks after exposure to the virus. Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, which may progress to coughing and shortness of breath as lungs fill with fluid.


"The primary way to protect yourself from Hantavirus is to control rodents and keep them from nesting in and around your home," DeBess said.


If you find rodent droppings or nests in your home or in outside areas such as garbage cans, woodpiles, sheds or barns, DeBess advises:

  • Do not sweep, brush or vacuum the droppings or nesting materials, because you will stir up dust and increase the chances of inhalation.
  • Spray the droppings and nests with a household disinfectant, such as Lysol or bleach mixture, and allow them to soak for at least 15 minutes.
  • Wear rubber gloves when cleaning up droppings, seal all materials in double plastic bags and dispose of in the trash.


Since Hantavirus was first identified in 1993, a total of 379 laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported nationally, including 32 retrospectively identified cases that occurred before 1993. HPS has been reported in 31 states, the majority in the southwestern United States. About three-fourths of cases have been in rural areas.