Hantavirus kills Saskatchewanian

Moose Jaw Times Herald - Editorial Staff
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They have big ears and striped bodies, but deer mice have the potential to pack fatal punch.

Humans who come into contact with contaminated airborne particles from the urine, saliva and droppings of deer mice can contract a severe and fatal lung disease known as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS).

On Tuesday morning, the provincial health ministry confirmed an adult in southern Saskatchewan died after contracting the Hantavirus. It is the first fatality involving Hantavirus the province has recorded in 2014.

At a press conference later in the afternoon, Denise Werker, the deputy chief medical health officer, did not tell reporters the age, sex, or health region the deceased contracted the illness.

According to Dr. Mark Vooght, chief medical officer for the Five Hills Health Region (FHHR), the Hantavirus victim did not come from the FHHR.

“Unfortunately, these cases do occur and one needs to take precautions from preventing this sort of thing from happening,” said Vooght.

He added that when people enter buildings where the smell, or see dead mice, they need to make sure they are not potentially exposed to the airborne virus. Some of the precautions people should take include wearing gloves, an N-95 or N-100 protective mask and double bag the dead mice they are cleaning up.

And only remove your mask after you have thoroughly washed your hands, says Vooght.

However, before cleaning the rodent-infested areas, it is recommended that the building’s doors and windows be opened to provide ventilation for at least 30 minutes.

Symptoms of Hantavirus include muscle aches, coughing, fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Shortness of breath is another symptom, which can develop into HPS, which, according to Dr. Vooght, “is fatal in about 30 per cent of cases.”

Over the last 20 years, there have been 27 cases of HPS in Saskatchewan, nine of which have been fatal.

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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