A case of hantavirus in the Eastern Sierra was confirmed today by Dr. Rick Johnson, Public Health Officer for Inyo County. A Bishop resident was hospitalized with a laboratory confirmed case of hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome, which marks the second confirmed occurrence of hantavirus in the area this year.
The Bishop resident had been sick with a flu-like illness and pneumonia for four days. After arriving at Northern Inyo Hospital last Thursday, the resident was quickly flown to Reno for further care. According to a press release from the Health Department, Marvin Moskowitz, Inyo County Environmental Health Director, indicated his department would take the lead role in the investigation into the exposure and source of the infection.
The first confirmed case this year was a Mammoth Lakes resident several weeks ago. The resident is currently recuperating from the recent infection. The press release stated that since there have been no reports of influenza in recent weeks, hantavirus should be considered in anyone with a serious, “influenza-like illness.” This includes fever, body and muscle aches, headache, cough, respiratory difficulty.
Since the disease was first recognized by the United States in 1993, there have been 534 cases in 31 states. Half of the 40 cases reported from California have been from the Eastern Sierra, either from residents or visitors.
The press release went on to say that “rodents, particularly the deer mouse, carry the virus that causes HCPS, which is typically spread to humans when infectious material from rodents is inhaled. This occurs when fresh droppings, urine, saliva, or nesting materials are disturbed and the air becomes contaminated with the virus. Hantaviruses can live in the environment for 2-3 days at normal room temperature. The UV rays of sunlight will kill the virus. Transmission peaks during the spring and summer months. HCPS in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another, nor from farm animals, dogs, cats, or rodents purchased at a pet store.”
Rodent control is the primary defense against hantavirus. —Press Release/LAK