Truckee hantavirus case confirmed |

Truckee hantavirus case confirmed

Tahoe Forest Hospital confirmed yesterday that a Truckee man is in critical condition after contracting the potentially deadly hantavirus.

Hospital officials declined to provide further information about the victim but said his chance of survival is 50 percent.

Hantavirus is a serious, often deadly, respiratory illness that is passed on to humans through infected rodent urine, saliva or droppings. Deer mice are common carriers of hantavirus.

The last documented case of hantavirus in the Truckee area was in 1995 when a Tahoe-Truckee Sanitation Agency employee contracted the illness while relocating a TTSA workshop. Del Williams was diagnosed two weeks after being admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Reno and survived.

Williams’ case was the first documented in Nevada County. He was also only one of four survivors out of the 10 reported cases in California to that date.

This recent case is the first reported case in Nevada County for 1997 and the 157th case reported in North America since 1993.

North American hantavirus has also been named the Sin Nombre Virus and produces a pattern of symptoms, including body aches, dizziness, lethargy, respiratory difficulty and fever. These symptoms rapidly progress into respiratory failure.

Two of the most unusual features of this illness are that it afflicted young adults (the average age of those infected is 35), and over half of those infected eventually died of the illness, medical experts said.


The Centers for Disease Control have issued a series of guidelines for reducing the risk. These include treating all mice as potential sources of the disease. Wet or soak all mouse droppings and mouse remains with a dilute disinfectant spray. Four tablespoons of Lysol concentrate or bleach in a gallon of water is the recommended solution.

Spray the mixture onto the remains or droppings and wait 15 minutes. Then invert a zip-lock bag and place a disinfectant-soaked rag over the dead mouse or droppings and pick it (them) up, inverting the bag, sealing it and then placing the bag in another bag.

Never use a vacuum or broom to pick up

dried remains since this might aerosolize the virus particles.

Other guidelines include the use of a mask and gloves when handling potentially infectious material or when working in confined spaces, mopping floors with a disinfectant solution before vacuuming, steam-cleaning or shampooing carpets that have been contaminated with mouse droppings or urine.

When opening unused rooms or summer homes that have been sealed for the winter, open all the windows and doors and let them air out for at least 30 minutes before entering or cleaning. Make your house very mouse unfriendly, seal all food in airtight containers, keep floors and counters clean, avoid leaving pet food out at night. Seal your house off by using wire mesh or steel wool to block off any holes larger than a quarter-inch in diameter. Use metal flashing around foundations to keep mice out.

Place gravel around the outside of structures to prevent burrowing by rodents. Remove brush and weeds from around homes, place woodpiles on 18-inch high frames and site them at least 100 feet from buildings. Encourage predators such as hawks, snakes, coyotes, owls and cats to help control mice naturally.

Deer mice are four to nine inches long from head to tail, range in color from pale gray to reddish brown and have white fur on their bellies, feet and underside of their tails.

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