The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Washtenaw County Health Department (WCHD) announced Tuesday they are investigating the first confirmed human case of the Sin Nombre hantavirus in Michigan. An adult female living in Washtenaw County was recently hospitalized with symptoms of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome after she cleaned an area with evidence of a rodent infestation.
County health officials said there are no documented cases of a hantavirus being transmitted person-to-person. Hantaviruses are most commonly transmitted from a rodent when a human inhales airborne viral particles from dried rodent urine, feces or saliva — typically in a poorly ventilated space. This often occurs when an individual is working in a space with an active rodent infestation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Sin Nombre hantavirus is generally transmitted to humans by the “deceptively cute” deer mouse.
The virus was first identified in the southwestern United States in 1993 and is predominantly detected during the spring and summer months, according to state health officials in a press release from MDHHS. The disease is preventable and susceptible to common household disinfectants.
Dr. Juan Luis Marquez, acting medical director for WCHD, suggested various steps people can take to avoid becoming infected.
“We can prevent and reduce the risk of hantavirus infection by taking precautions and being alert to the possibility of it,” Marquez said. “Use rubber, latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves when cleaning areas with rodent infestations, ventilate areas for at least 30 minutes before working and make sure to wet areas thoroughly with a disinfectant or chlorine solution before cleaning.”
Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, public information officer for WCHD, told The Michigan Daily the case identified in Washtenaw County is unlikely to have a significant impact on everyday life for residents, but she still urged caution to anyone working in closed-off residences or other areas with signs of an active rodent population.
“First and foremost, we don’t necessarily think there’s (a) high risk (of contracting the Sin Nombre hantavirus) for anyone,” Ringler-Cerniglia said. “We’re working with the state, and through them, federal resources to figure out if there’s any expected higher risk near where (the case was reported).”
Pets cannot transmit the hantavirus to humans, but if a pet brings a rodent into the home, county health officials advise using gloves and a garbage bag to dispose of it and disinfecting any affected surfaces.
Summer News Editor Dominic Coletti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.