Rare Human Infection Diagnosed in Suffolk County

Case likely isolated

ALBANY, N.Y, HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (June 23, 2011) - State and local health officials have confirmed a case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in Suffolk County, and are advising people to take precautions to prevent potential infection from this rare, but potentially serious virus, which is found in mice and other rodents.

The State Department of Health, Suffolk County Health Department and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating the incident, but at this time, it appears to be an isolated case.

HPS is an infection of the lungs caused by several different hantaviruses, a microbe that may be present in the urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents. Humans can become infected if they inhale microscopic particles from the droppings or urine of infected rodents. There are no known cases of human-to-human transmission of hantavirus, and pets and insects are not believed to have a role in transmission.

Cases of hantavirus have been rare and sporadic since the first human hantavirus infections were diagnosed in the southwest U.S. in 1993, but they can cause serious illness and could potentially be fatal. To date, CDC has confirmed six cases nationwide in 2011. There were 20 confirmed cases nationwide in 2010 and 20 in 2009, predominantly in the western U.S.

Since 1995, there have been two cases of HPS in New York State, including the patient most recently identified in Suffolk County. Both patients died from the disease. In the mid-1990s, two other cases of HPS were found in residents of other states who had potential exposure in New York.

Symptoms of HPS include high fever, muscle aches, coughing, and headache, which may appear between one and five weeks after exposure to the virus. Respiratory problems can worsen after several days, and the lungs may fill up with fluids, potentially causing respiratory failure or shock.


  • The best way to prevent exposure to hantavirus is to avoid contact with rodent dropping or urine.
  • Take steps to prevent rodent infestation of the home, including contacting an exterminator about rodent removal and control. Suffolk County resident who have questions about rodent infestation should call the Suffolk County Department of Health Services at 631-852-5900 (Mon.- Fri., 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.). Additional information about infestation is also available from the CDC at http://www.cdc.gov/rodents/.
  • If using snap traps to eliminate rodents, set these traps in an empty container such as a milk carton lying on its side or a newspaper, to prevent contact with potentially infected materials. A used trap and the container or newspaper, as well as the rodent, should be thoroughly wet down with a household disinfectant solution (detergent, plus 1 ½ cups of bleach per gallon of water) and placed in a double plastic bag for disposal. After disposal, wash hands with soap and water. Snap traps are preferable to the use of glue traps or poison.
  • Rodent-proof measures are highly recommended, including elimination of improperly stored food and other potential rodent food sources, sealing of cracks and small openings that provide a passageway for rodents to enter a home; clearing of brush from the foundation of the home; and sealed storage of rubbish.


If large amounts of rodent droppings are found in a home, the dwelling should be aired out before re-entering that area of the home. Debris should be wet down with a household disinfectant solution (detergent, plus 1 ½ cups of bleach per gallon of water) to reduce airborne dust. An old spray bottle with a fine mist is recommended to apply the solution. While wearing gloves, any debris should be wiped down and placed in a double plastic bag for disposal, along with paper towels and other cleanup materials. Do not use a vacuum cleaner or broom to clean up the droppings. Gloves, a dust mask, long-sleeved clothing and protective eyewear are also recommended to prevent exposure. Always wash hands with soap and water once the cleanup is complete.

People who are ill should consult their health care provider immediately. Inform the provider if you think you have come in contact with rodent droppings or urine. In addition, Suffolk County residents who would like health information should call the county Department of Health Services at 631-853-3055 (Mon.- Fri., 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.).

For additional information on hantavirus prevention, visit the CDC web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/