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What to do to help prevent hantavirus

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LAWTON, Okla._Oklahoma has had its first confirmed death from Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome this year.

The fatality occurred in Texas County in the Oklahoma panhandle. It’s the fifth case in Oklahoma since hantavirus was first recognized in the United States in 1993. Last year, two people died in Oklahoma from the fatal virus. The virus is carried by wild rodents who spread it through urine, feces and saliva.

The first thing to understand is that it is extremely rare. There have been roughly 600 cases nationwide in 24 years and, there's about a 65% survival rate. One survivor of the virus said it felt like he had a tight band around his chest and a pillow on his face.

It's the creatures that no one wants to see that carry the hantavirus; deer mice, cotton rats, rice rats and the white footed mice are all culprits. The rodents are typically found in sheds and barns and anywhere else they can get shelter.

"We always need to make sure we have precautions if you're going to be working in an area that potentially would have contaminated rodents, to take those extra precautions,” said Leslie Beavers, health educator for the Comanche County Health Department.

You get the virus by breathing it in from air particles carrying rodent urine and feces that contain the hantavirus. When you are dealing with these rodent’s nests, dead rodents or droppings, authorities want you to wear rubber gloves. When you get done, make sure you wash your hands with plenty of warm water and lots of soap. If you become infected there are some significant symptoms to be aware of

"The early symptoms are your fever, headache, muscle ache, chills, stomach problems…things like that. When it comes to the later symptoms the lungs begin to fill up with fluid and the person becomes short of breath," explained Beavers.

Symptoms can take three days to six weeks to appear. When the lungs begin to fill up with fluid, that's when it becomes fatal.

Other precautions you can take include ventilating the areas you are cleaning at least thirty minutes prior, when removing a rodent nest or rodents use a long handled shovel and make sure to wear rubber gloves.

If you would like more information on Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome and more tips on how to protect yourself, click here.

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