Manitoba Public Health is urging the public to guard against exposure to the rodent borne virus, hantavirus, after a Winnipeg man became the first Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) fatality in the province in 12 years, according to a Manitoba Public Health news release Oct. 26.
Health officials say there have been four lab-confirmed cases of HPS in Manitoba since 1999 when record keeping began in the province. The current case is the first recorded death in Manitoba from HPS since 2000. Health officials have not disclosed the identity of the victim.
According to a Winnipeg Free Press report today, Dr. Richard Rusk, a provincial medical officer of health, said officials are not certain whether the man was infected at home or at his cottage. He apparently cleaned up after mice in both places in recent weeks.
The health official refused to identify the cottage community, except to say it was on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. “If you pinpoint a specific community our worry is that you create a lot of panic within that community when this is a very rare occurrence,” he said.
Health officials say that hantavirus in Canada is primarily seen in the western provinces. This includes 66-year-old Medicine Hat, Alberta man, Ron Sept, who died from HPS earlier this month and was the first hantavirus fatality in that province since 2007.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.
Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness.
The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
There is no specific treatment for WNV infection.
Manitoba Public Health says the best defense against hantavirus is to avoid disturbing areas of rodent infestation including nests and droppings. Other recommended precautions include:
- sealing up homes and cabins so mice can’t enter;
- airing out enclosed areas or closed-up buildings as much as possible before entering;
- wearing gloves and appropriate masks when cleaning up nests, droppings and areas that may be contaminated with the virus;
- dampening areas contaminated with mouse droppings with bleach disinfectant and removing droppings with a damp mop or cloth to reduce the chance the virus may become airborne (not vacuuming or sweeping);
- ensuring hand washing takes place after cleanup is complete;
- putting hay, wood and compost piles as far as possible from homes;
- cleaning up trash and junk piles; and
- not leaving pet food and water where mice can get to it.
For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page
To receive email updates of the latest infectious disease news and information, click the “subscribe” button at the top of the story