Earlier in March, there was a scare of another possible pandemic when a man from China died and tested positive for hantavirus. Although authorities initially said it is not something people should be worrying about, the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health announced on July 2 that they have found rodents that tested positive for the virus.

Health officials from the San Diego County recently collected four wild mice - one deer mouse, one brush mouse, and two California mice - as a part of their routine monitoring in the Campo area, which tested positive for hantavirus. They were added to the 22 rodents which all tested positive for the same virus this year.

Hantavirus has the potential to cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in the United States and hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) in Europe and Asia. The rare disease can be caught after wild rodents have deposited urine, feces, or saliva that has dried up and mixed with the air or airborne transmission. The virus particles can then be inhaled via the air, or in extremely rare cases, the infection can be contracted by getting bitten by a mouse with hantavirus.

Hantavirus Outbreak

HPS is a respiratory disease caused by this viral infection. So far in America, there has not been a reported case of human to human infection yet authorities are still reminding everyone to be cautious.

Deer mice, cotton rats, rice rats, and the white-footed mouse have been found to host the virus. They generally nest away from humans as they are commonly found in rural areas such as forests, fields, farms, and barns.

The first virus outbreak occurred during the Korean War in the 1950s when over 3,000 United Nations troops were infected with Korean hemorrhagic fever or HFRS. The second hantavirus outbreak recorded in history was in the Four Corners region (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico) in 1993 when there was a hantavirus pulmonary syndrome outbreak, the first known human cases of hantavirus in the United States. 24 cases were reported with 12 deaths, most of whom were Native Americans.

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'Hygiene is very important'

Geneticist Busra Teke Kazan from Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Turkey, shared that 'Even if hantavirus did cause an outbreak, it would be much easier to contain than COVID-19 due to the fact that it is transmitted from rodents only.' She also explained that there is an ELISA diagnosis kit that can trace hantavirus.

Kasan said that precaution should be taken, especially for those working with mice models in laboratories. 'Hygiene is very important, and if we are working with rodents in labs, we shouldn't catch them bare-handed and always use protective gear and gloves,' she said.

People who work in fields such as farms should also be cautious. They are reminded to used thick, protective gloves because the rodents and their waste deposits may be in the soil.

At home, pets can contract hantavirus, but they cannot be transmitted to humans that way. Nevertheless, extra guidelines include using gloves and disinfectants when cleaning dead rodents, droppings, nests, and surrounding areas.

Residents at home and those who have barns, rural spaces, garages, and sheds that rodents may invade are reminded to seal external holes large enough for them to pass through. Thorough hand washing should be done after cleaning or any activity dealing with a rodent-infested area.

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