SPOKANE, Wash. – A Spokane County man in his 50s has died from complications of hantavirus disease, according to Spokane Regional Health District officials.
Health officials said the rare respiratory illness is caused by infection with a hantavirus, usually spread by infected mice droppings. They said the man likely came into contact with the virus inside a barn in Adams County. Officials said this is Spokane’s first-ever confirmed case of and fatality from hantavirus.
Health experts said in the northwest, deer mice are the only carriers of this hantavirus strain. They said the greatest risk for exposure occurs when people enter enclosed areas with mice infestation and poor air circulation. The virus, which is found in mice urine, droppings and saliva, gets in the air as mist or dust when droppings or nests are disturbed.
Officials said Washington cases of hantavirus usually happen east of the Cascade Mountains. They said in Adams County, there have been five confirmed cases since 1994. According to Washington State Department of Health officials, this is the state’s fifth case of hantavirus disease in 2017 and third death. The other confirmed cases occurred in King, Skagit, and Franklin counties.
Health officials said Hantavirus disease symptoms in humans are flu-like and usually begin one to three weeks after exposure but can happen up to eight weeks after exposure. Symptoms include things like fever, chills and muscle aches, followed by the abrupt onset of respiratory distress and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. If someone experiences an abrupt onset of flu-like symptoms after cleaning rodent waste, they should consult their health care provider immediately. There is not a vaccine to prevent infections and there is no treatment other than supportive care.