A man in Richland County is recovering from a hantavirus infection. The virus is spread by rodents such as mice, and the Montana man was infected while he was out-of-state. However, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) warned people that springtime provides more opportunity for the virus to spread, as people clean their cabins and sheds.

Hantavirus is not common in Montana. However, infections do happen, according to a news release from DPHHS. Since 1993, there have been 45 cases of hantavirus in the state. However, the last reported infection was in 2018. Symptoms start with fatigue, fever and muscle aches, then coughing and shortness of breath. If left untreated, it can lead to death. In fact, of those 45 cases, ten people died. This year, the man in Richland County was hospitalized, but treatment was successful and he's now recovering at home.

Deer mice, which are present in Montana, are the most common hosts of hantavirus. The mice saliva, urine or droppings can spread the virus in the air if it's stirred up, according the DPHHS. They have tips to avoid getting sick:

  • Seal Up - Seal holes and and gaps in walls to prevent mice from getting inside.
  • Trap Up - Use snap traps to eliminate mice and keep shrubs near the home trimmed. Wood piles should be at least 100 feet from the home or on a deck at least a foot off the ground.
  • Clean up - When cleaning up outbuildings, wear rubber or plastic gloves. Avoid sweeping or vacuuming areas with rodent droppings. Open the windows and doors for at least 30 minutes before cleaning. Spray the area with a disinfectant or a bleach-water mix and let it soak for five minutes. Wipe up droppings with a sponge or paper towel and clean again with disinfectant. Afterwards, wash your hands with soap and warm water.
  • If you do feel sick following spring cleaning, Erika Baldry of DPHHS said, "Be sure to tell your doctor that you have been around rodents - this will alert your physician to look closely for any rodent-carried disease, such as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome." More information is at the Montana DPHHS website.

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