Hantavirus Cases on the Rise in Western United States

Nine cases of the rodent-borne illness in five western states in first three months of 2006

FRIDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health officials are calling for stepped-up public awareness and precautions against Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) after more human cases of the potentially fatal illness surfaced in five western states during the first three months of 2006 than in the same time period in 2005, according to a report in the June 9 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

David Engelthaler, M.S., of the Arizona Department of Health Services, and colleagues report that nine cases of the rodent-borne illness were confirmed in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, North Dakota and Washington from January through March 2006.

By contrast, a similar number of cases of HPS occurred across the entire nation during the first three months of 1994 and 1999. There have been a total of 438 human cases in 32 states, 154 of them fatal, since the disease was first recognized in 1993. Transmitted by rodents, the viral illness has no treatment and is fatal in up to 40 percent of cases.

"HPS typically begins as headache, fever and myalgia, and is soon followed by pulmonary edema, which often leads to severe respiratory compromise; thrombocytopenia, presence of immunoblasts and hemoconcentration are characteristic laboratory findings," according to the report. "All health care providers are strongly encouraged to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of HPS and to report suspected cases immediately to their state health departments."

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