Case of Hantavirus Confirmed in New York State

State Department of Health, Department of Environmental Conservation Continue Investigation into Case

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 22, 2012) - The New York State Department of Health (DOH) has received laboratory confirmation of a hantavirus case in New York State. The individual confirmed to have contracted the virus, a Suffolk County man, has since recovered. The last reported case of hantavirus in the State occurred in Suffolk County in 2011.

Hantavirus is an infection of the lungs caused by several different strains of the virus found in rodents.

On Friday, October 12, as part of DOH's investigation, samples were sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing. DOH received CDC's confirmation of the virus on October 17.

The individual reports that on August 26, 2012 he was bitten by a rodent while camping in a lean-to shelter in the Adirondacks. According to the man, he did not experience symptoms until late September; he was hospitalized for nearly a week before recovering.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will check and remove any food or other rodent attractants from within, under and around lean-tos in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness in the Adirondacks. Trapping and testing mice in the Adirondacks are not recommended. DOH and CDC recommend always being vigilant to prevent rodent contact and assume mice can be carrying hantavirus anywhere in the state. In particular, most hantavirus cases have been related to inhaling dust while cleaning up rodent droppings in cabins or garages that have been closed for a period of time. DOH recommends wetting down dusty areas with a combination of water and household bleach before cleaning up areas with possible rodent infestation.

DEC will continue to advise users of lean-tos and other campers to avoid attracting nuisance wildlife (including mice and bears) by following proper food storage, handling and cleanup practices when camping. As a precaution, DOH will inspect the man's Suffolk County home to identify if any risk of exposure to hantavirus exists at the residence.


Is Hantavirus Common?

No. Hantavirus infection is rare. From 1993 through 2011, CDC has received reports of 587 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in the United States. The majority of these occurred or had exposure in the western United States. In New York State, there have been two identified cases of hantavirus both in Suffolk County, one in 1995 and another in 2011.

What are the symptoms of Hantavirus, and how long after infection do they appear?

Symptoms usually appear within two to four weeks of infection, but can appear as early as one week or as late as six weeks after infection. Initial symptoms are general and flu-like: fever (101° F and above); headache; abdominal, joint, and lower back pain; sometimes nausea and vomiting. However, the primary symptom of this disease is difficulty in breathing, which is caused by fluid build-up in the lungs, and which quickly progresses to an inability to breathe. Infected individuals may die of respiratory failure or shock.

What should individuals do if they suspect Hantavirus infection?

If any combination of the symptoms described above– especially difficulty in breathing – appear after director indirect exposure to rodents, they should immediately contact their doctor and be sure to mention any exposure to rodents.

Is there a cure or vaccine against Hantavirus infection?

There is no specific treatment, cure or vaccine for hantavirus infection. However, if infected individuals are recognized early and receive immediate medical care, they may experience better health outcomes.

How is Hantavirus spread?

Hantavirus is spread from wild rodents to people. The virus, which is found in rodent urine, saliva, and feces, can be easily aerosolized in confined spaces when disturbed by rodents or human activities, such as sweeping or vacuuming. Breathing in the virus is the most common form of transmission; however, one can also become infected by touching the mouth or nose after handling contaminated materials. While rare, a rodent's bite can also spread the virus.

Hantavirus is not spread from person-to-person. The virus, which is able to survive in the environment for a few hours or days (for example, in dirt and dust in the shade or in rodent nests) can be killed by most household disinfectants, such as bleach, detergents or alcohol. Exposure to the sun's UV rays can also kill the virus.

Is it safe to travel where Hantavirus infection has been reported?

Yes. Travel to and within areas where hantavirus infection has been reported is safe. Yet, visitors to rural areas and nature resorts — campers, hikers, and others who take part in activities outdoors — can become exposed to rodent urine, saliva, or droppings, which present possible exposure to the virus. Therefore, individuals should take appropriate precautions to protect themselves.

To minimize the risk of Hantavirus infection, the following precautions are recommended:

  • Avoid touching live or dead rodents. Do not disturb rodents, burrows or nests.
  • Before occupying abandoned or unused cabins, open them up to air them out. Inspect for rodents and do not use cabins if signs of rodent infestation such as droppings or nests exist.
  • If sleeping outdoors, check potential campsite grounds for rodent droppings and burrows.
  • Disinfect droppings and nesting materials by spraying with a disinfectant and wear kitchen gloves. Dispose of sprayed materials in a plastic bag.
  • Avoid sleeping near woodpiles or garbage areas, which are commonly frequented by rodents.
  • Avoid sleeping on bare ground; use a tent with a floor, mat or elevated cots if they are available.
  • Do not leave pet food in feeding dishes.
  • Store foods in rodent-proof containers and promptly discard, bury or burn all garbage in accordance with campsite regulations.

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