GRANT COUNTY, Wash. - On October 2, 2012 The Grant County Health District (GCHD) received confirmation from the Washington State Department of Health Public Health Laboratory (DOH) that the death of a Grant County woman was likely caused by the Hantavirus. The woman was hospitalized and died in September.
The Health District investigation determined the woman was most likely exposed to the virus in her R.V., south of Moses Lake. This is the second Hantavirus-related death in Grant County this year. The two cases are not linked and do not indicate an increased risk to the public.
"The Health District staff and I are saddened by her death. Our sympathy goes out to her family during this difficult time," states Jefferson Ketchel, Grant County Health District Administrator. "Her family has been tremendously helpful during the investigation into the cause of her illness."
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a rare illness caused by a virus found in the urine, droppings and saliva of infected rodents. In Washington State, deer mice are the only carrier of the virus. Washington State Department of Health reports that about 14% of deer mice are infected with the virus. As deer mice live throughout Grant County, human cases of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome can occur in any part of the county.
Since 1993, there have been 45 cases reported in Washington State and 16 (35%) of these patients died. This is comparable to the national average of about 33%. Each year Washington has one to five confirmed Hantavirus cases. Most of these cases occur in Eastern Washington.
People can become sick with Hantavirus by breathing in the air particles stirred up from rodent droppings or nests; there is no evidence that the virus is spread person-to-person. The greatest risk occurs when people enter enclosed areas with rodent infestation and poor air circulation, such as sheds or cabins.
Illness usually begins one to six weeks after a person is exposed. Early signs include fever, muscle aches and fatigue. Some people have headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach pain.