A North Dakota woman has died from hantavirus after possibly coming into contact with rodent droppings or urine. The woman, who was not identified by name or age in a news release, was living in the northeast portion of North Dakota. Her death marks the state’s first reported case since 2016.
Hantavirus is a pulmonary syndrome spread by rodents, and can be transmitted to humans by breathing in air contaminated with the virus when fresh droppings, urine or nesting materials are disturbed. According to the news release from the North Dakota Department of Health, the symptoms can occur up to six weeks post-exposure, with most appearing within about two weeks.
It was not clear when the woman contracted hantavirus, nor when she died, but officials said it’s important for residents to remain mindful when dealing with evidence of rodents.
“People need to be mindful of the presences or evidence of wild rodents or rodent nests when conducting clean-up activities in a house, barn or other buildings, especially in rural areas,” Jill Baber, epidemiologist for the state’s health department, said in a news release. “It is important to avoid actions that stir up dust, such as sweeping or vacuuming, if signs of rodents are present.”
The health department recommends ventilating areas with possible rodent infestation, as well as wearing gloves and spraying with disinfectant. It advises to keep small children away from potential hazard areas, and to avoid stirring up dust or vacuuming up droppings.
This case marks the state’s 16th since 1993.