Navajo Nation health officials warn of hantavirus after first case confirmed
FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation public health officials are warning the public about hantavirus pulmonary syndrome after a case was confirmed on the tribal land.
Hantavirus is a severe and sometimes fatal respiratory disease that is typically caused by exposure to infected rodents or their waste, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Epidemiology Center reported the person is a resident of McKinley County on the Navajo Nation and contracted the disease this month.
The case prompted the two entities to issue a health advisory notice on April 19.
"It is not known at this time where the individual contracted hantavirus. The deer mouse is the most commonly infected rodent," the advisory states.
Hantavirus can be transmitted to humans who come into contact with or breathe in droppings, urine or saliva from infected rodents. The illness is not transmissible from person to person.
However, symptoms of hantavirus are similar to the flu or to COVID-19, only a medical exam and laboratory tests can determine the difference, the advisory states.
Officials are reminding people to use caution and preventive methods when entering and cleaning sheds, garages, campers, cabins, barns or other structures.
Preventive methods include opening all doors and windows for 30 minutes prior to cleaning.
They also advise not to stir up dust by vacuuming, sweeping or any other activity.
If rodent droppings or nests are found, spray them with a household disinfectant and allow them to soak for at least 15 minutes. Any rodent droppings or nests should be sprayed with a pesticide to kill fleas before sanitizing or disposing of carcasses.
Wear rubber gloves and clean up droppings with disposable materials such as paper towels, rags or mop heads.
Seal all materials, droppings or nests in double plastic bags and dispose of in the trash.
Officials also recommend proofing homes against rodents by plugging or sealing holes and gaps. Do not make food easily available to rodents.
Another method is removing outdoor junk and moving items such as woodpiles, lumber or hay bales away from the home.
Hantavirus cases can occur on the Navajo Nation throughout the year. The greatest number of cases have occurred in the spring and summer, according to public health officials.
"During spring and summer, we urge Navajo citizens to continue practicing preventative measures to avoid any exposure to many illnesses and diseases. Individuals are usually exposed to hantavirus around their homes, sheds and poorly ventilated areas with mouse droppings. To avoid any outbreaks, consider preventative actions to stop the spread, such as cleaning around the home," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a press release.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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