Fatal Hantavirus Case Reported in Rio Arriba County Resident

First Case This Year in NM


By Aimee Barabe

The New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) announced on Friday, May 25, that a 20-year-old woman from Rio Arriba County has died from complications due to laboratory-confirmed Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). This is the first case of HPS in New Mexico this year.

“We extend our sympathy to this woman’s family and friends,” said DOH Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Catherine Torres. “I am asking all New Mexicans to follow our prevention guidelines to keep themselves and their families safe, as HPS can be a serious and sometimes fatal disease.”

People can become infected and develop disease from HPS when they breathe in aerosolized virus particles that have been transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings or saliva. The deer mouse is the main reservoir for the strain of Hantavirus that occurs in New Mexico, Sin Nombre virus.

“People need to be very careful when they are involved in activities that may put them in contact with rodents or their droppings,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the DOH’s public health veterinarian. “It is important to remember that the best defense against Hantavirus is to avoid disturbing areas of rodent infestation, including nests and droppings, and to air out cabins and sheds before entering them.”

To protect yourself, avoid contact with mice and other rodents. Other important steps are:

•Air out closed-up buildings before entering

•Seal-up homes and cabins so mice can’t enter

•Trap mice until they are all gone

•Clean up nests and droppings using a disinfectant

•Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home

•Get rid of trash and junk piles

•Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where mice can get to it

Early symptoms of Hantavirus infection include fever and muscle aches, possibly with chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cough, which progresses to respiratory distress. These symptoms develop within one to six weeks after rodent exposure. Although there is no specific treatment for HPS, chances for recovery are better if medical attention is sought early.

In 2011, New Mexico had five cases of HPS. Three of the five cases were fatal, including a 51-year-old woman from McKinley County, a 35-year-old man from Torrance County, and a 23-year-old man from McKinley County. The two non-fatal cases in 2011 were in a 39-year-old man and a 59-year-old woman, both from McKinley County. Since it was first discovered in 1993, New Mexico has had a total of 91 lab-confirmed HPS cases with 37 fatalities, the highest number of cases for any state in the nation.

For more information about HPS, visit the Department’s website


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