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NDDoH warns residents about hantavirus

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The North Dakota Department of Health reminds residents to take steps to protect themselves against hantavirus disease which is spread by rodents. Infected rodents spread the virus through their urine, droppings, saliva, and on rare occasions through the bite of an infected rodent. Levi Schlosser is an epidemiologist with the NDDoH Division of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases.

"The hantavirus is a viral infection that can cause severe lung disease including pneumonia and more serious complications including acute respiratory distress syndrome and even death. The virus is typically transmitted when somebody breathes in the air that's contaminated by the virus. Most often people are exposed to hantavirus when inhaling dust while cleaning or while occupying previously vacant cabins, sheds, or other dwellings."

Schlosser says symptoms of hantavirus usually begin two to three weeks after infection. Early symptoms include fever, muscle and body aches, fatigue, headache, dizziness, chills, nausea, and vomiting.

"When you know that you're cleaning a building with signs of a rodent infestation, make sure you ventilate the space by opening the doors and windows for at least 30 minutes before cleaning. If you are cleaning up an area with signs of a rodent infestation, make sure you wear gloves and use disinfectant when cleaning up dead rodents or their droppings. Make sure that you saturate the area really well with disinfectant and make sure you wear a mask."

People with the virus are typically hospitalized.