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Biological Health Threat – Fatal Hantavirus (HPS) [Update]: San Luis Valley, Colorado


Published Date: 2016-04-24 12:22:30
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Hantavirus update – Americas (23): USA (CO)
Archive Number: 20160424.4179685

Date: Tuesday 19 Apr 2016
Source: The Denver Post [edited]

A San Luis Valley resident has died of [a] hantavirus [infection], a rare but often fatal illness spread by deer mice [_Peromyscus maniculatus_].

The death was announced on Tuesday [19 Apr 2016] by Ginger Stringer, Saguache County’s public health director. She did not identify the victim or the exact location, citing confidentiality concerns. She did offer advice on avoiding a disease that kills more than a third of those infected.

In the San Luis Valley, hantavirus is carried by deer mice, which have tawny backs, white bellies, big eyes and big ears. People get infected by breathing the virus when stirring dust from mouse nests or droppings in areas with poor ventilation. Closed spaces, such as attics, barns and sheds, may hold droppings of infected mice, as well as woodpiles occupied by mice.

“Keep mice away from areas where you live and work,” Stringer advised. “Store human food, pet food and bird seed in lidded containers or securely closing cabinets. Use traps baited with peanut butter to remove rodents from indoor areas. Keep garbage in tightly covered cans.”

Hantavirus [infection] symptoms typically show up 1-6 weeks after exposure and may begin with fatigue, fever and muscle aches, as well as dizziness and nausea. Four to 10 days later, a dry cough and breathing difficulties may develop as the lungs fill with fluid, followed by respiratory failure and possibly death.

Because of its rapid progression, Stringer advises people to seek medical care immediately if they develop symptoms within 6 weeks of exposure to mice or their droppings. Colorado averages about 4 confirmed cases of hantavirus yearly in different parts of the state. It has had more confirmed cases than any other state but New Mexico, according to Saguache County public health.

[byline: David Olinger]

communicated by:

[A few cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) have occurred in the western USA so far this year [2016]. The hantavirus responsible for this case was not specified but undoubtedly is Sin Nombre virus, which is endemic in deer mice (_Peromyscus maniculatus_) in Colorado. Although cases of Sin Nombre virus infection are relatively rare, they can be very serious, as the 4 HPS [hantavirus pulmonary syndrome] deaths in Colorado last year (2015) and 3 New Mexico fatalities in 2014 indicate.

The public needs to be aware of the circumstances that lead to risk of virus transmission. This is particularly important during spring and summer, when cabins and other outbuildings that have been closed for several months are reopened and cleaned out, raising dust that may be contaminated with virus from deer mice hosts. Previous posts this year [2016] indicate that increased precipitation due to El Nino climate effects may have an effect on mouse habitat, with increased exposure of humans in the region due to related increases in populations of Sin Nombre hantavirus-infected mice (see ProMED-mail archive no. 20160116.3942572).

A 20 Apr 2016 report of this same case provided additional helpful information about cleaning up rodent-infested areas. Open doors and windows and allow a room to air out for 30 minutes before going inside. Consider using a respirator mask (N-100 rating) that seals tightly to the face. DO NOT SWEEP OR DRY-VACUUM MOUSE DROPPINGS. Mix a fresh solution of one part bleach to 9 parts water (or 1 ½ cups [355 ml] bleach per gallon [3.8 l] of water). Wear rubber gloves and spray droppings, nests, and carcasses with the bleach and water solution. Let soak for 5-10 minutes before cleaning up with a mop, sponge, or wet vacuum. After disinfecting, place mouse carcasses, nests and cleaning materials into a plastic bag. Tie the bag shut and put it in an outdoor trashcan. Wash hands and clothing after clean up. (

An image of the deer mouse, _P. maniculatus_, can be seen at

A map showing the location of Colorado in the USA can be accessed at and a map showing Colorado counties at – Mod.TY

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:]

See Also

Hantavirus update – Americas (18): USA (NM) 20160406.4142637
Hantavirus – Americas (16): USA (AZ) 20160325.4119418
Hantavirus update – Americas (07): USA (NM) 20160205.3997720
Hantavirus update – Americas (05): USA (AZ) 20160126.3967940
Hantavirus update – Americas (03): USA (AZ) comment 20160116.3942572
Hantavirus update – Americas (02): USA (AZ) 20160114.3936962

Hantavirus update – Americas (35): USA (CA) 20150816.3582657
Hantavirus update – Americas (33): USA (IN) 20150804.3558170
Hantavirus update – Americas (31): USA (TX) 20150712.3504236
Hantavirus update – Americas (28): USA (CO) 20150627.3469382
Hantavirus update – Americas (23): USA (CO) RFI 20150523.3380955
Hantavirus update – Americas (20): USA (UT) 20150503.3339109
Hantavirus update – Americas (17): USA (CO) 20150426.3323207
Hantavirus update – Americas (15): USA (CO) conf. 20150413.3295294
Hantavirus update – Americas (14): USA (CO) susp, RFI 20150412.3293370

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

Category C Priority Pathogens

Hantavirus occurs in nature, but it is also considered a Category C bioterrorism agent. Category C organisms/biological agents are the third highest priority , and are emerging pathogens that might be engineered for mass dissemination because of their natural availability, ease of production and dissemination, high mortality rate, and ability to cause a major health impact.

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