Hantavirus is a virus that can cause a serious disease in humans called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
Early on in the illness, hantavirus causes non-specific symptoms like fever, muscle aches and fatigue. Some people may also experience a headache, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. After four to 10 days of these early symptoms, people with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome will develop a cough and shortness of breath.
Without prompt medical care, the disease can be fatal.
In Vermont, there are two species of rodents that are capable of carrying hantavirus: the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) and the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) While these mice are common throughout the state, hantavirus is an uncommon disease in Vermont. Since 1993, only two cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in Vermonters have been reported to the Health Department. In 2014 one out-of-state resident was infected with hantavirus while staying in Vermont and became ill after returning to their home state.
White footed mouse
Hantavirus can be found in the urine, droppings and saliva of certain rodents.
People most often get infected with hantavirus by breathing in tiny droplets that contain the virus. These droplets can get into the air when rodent droppings, urine or nesting materials are stirred up by human activity.
People may also get infected with hantavirus through the bite of an infected rodent, by eating food that has been contaminated with rodent urine, droppings or saliva, or by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus then touching their mouth or nose.
The best way to prevent hantavirus infections is to eliminate or minimize contact with rodents. Seal up holes in your home or camp site to prevent rodents from entering, trap mice around your living space to reduce the population, store food securely and properly, and reduce any potential nesting sites inside and around your home.