One dead, one barely survives mouse-related hantavirus in King County

SEATTLE – One man died and a woman got sick and barely survived from a mouse-related virus in King County this winter.

Both people were diagnosed with Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, which is contracted by breathing in hantavirus.

“While it’s a concern that there are two locally-acquired cases relatively closely together, at this point, we do not know whether this indicates a general increase in risk for our area,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Either way, these cases serve as an important reminder to be aware of the risk of hantavirus, know the symptoms of hantavirus, and how to clean up rodent infestations.”

Hantavirus is present in dust from dried rodent urine, saliva and droppings, specifically from the deer mouse in our region.

You can also become infected by touching any of those materials, or a rodent nest, and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Rodent bites also cause HPS, which doesn’t spread from person to person.

The man who died was in his 30s and lived in Issaquah, King County public health officials said. He died Feb. 24.

The woman who got sick lives in Redmond and was diagnosed in December.

She’s since recovered. She may have been infected through her car's cabin air system, which had been infested with mice.

Symptoms can begin anywhere from 1-8 weeks after inhaling the virus, and are similar to the flu. About one in three people diagnosed with hantavirus dies.

If you start feeling sick after you have been around rodent infestations, either in a home, on a job site, or while camping, you should contact your doctor for testing.  Click here for more information from Washington State Department of Health.