Category Archives: USA

Alabama | Be alert to health and safety following tornadoes

Damage and power outages from the devastating tornadoes striking Alabama prompt the Alabama Department of Public Health to remind people about the many hazards that follow natural disasters. Be sure to listen to and follow emergency information provided by local officials.

Do not endanger yourself or others. Use caution when entering any structure that has been damaged. The damage could be worse than it appears, and the structure could collapse. Walk carefully around the outside and check for loose power lines and gas leaks. Do not enter if you smell gas, and report any natural gas leaks to the gas company immediately.

Dress appropriately. Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves, gloves and a protective mask when handling or walking on or near debris. Watch for broken glass and hardware, such as exposed nails. Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and clean water when working in debris.

Never touch a downed power line, or an object in contact with a downed line. Report any potential electrical hazards to law enforcement authorities and the utility company immediately. If a power line falls on a car, do not get out the vehicle and warn others not to touch the vehicle or the line.

Know the proper safety procedures and operating instructions for any gas-powered or electric saws or tools before using them. Using them without the proper knowledge can be deadly. Beware of injury from the release of bent trees or branches.

Never use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or camper — or even outside near an open window, door or vent. These items emit carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if you breathe it in.

Symptoms are dizziness, light-headedness and nausea. Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. Never hook up a generator to wiring installed in a home because this can create back feed in electrical wires which could injure or kill utility workers repairing electrical lines.

Clean up spilled medications, flammable liquids and other potentially hazardous materials immediately.

As people work long days following the tornadoes, be sure to avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. Do not drink any tap water, since water may be contaminated due to damaged water lines and piping. If working outside, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. People unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment should work during the cooler hours of the day when possible.

Elderly people, infants, children and people with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, a previous stroke or obesity are more prone to heat stress.

People using medications for high blood pressure, nervousness or depression are also at higher risk.

Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights instead of candles. If you must use a candle, be sure the candle is in a sturdy holder and that it is kept away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items. Never leave a lit candle unattended.

Be wary of wildlife and other animals. Wild animals have an unpredictable nature, so do not attempt to capture or handle them.

Injury prevention information is available at adph.org/injury

New York | More FDNY members will now carry Naloxone

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano and Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan with the FDNY paramedics honored for their life-saving rescues using Naloxone.
Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano and Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan with the FDNY paramedics honored for their life-saving rescues using Naloxone.

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano joined Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan and Police Commissioner William Bratton announced on Apr. 17 that all FDNY EMTs, 205 fire companies and police officers on Staten Island will begin carrying Naloxone to treat drug overdoses.

They will join the FDNY paramedics who have been trained to use the medication for more than 40 years.

“We know how important this initiative is,” Commissioner Cassano said. “We know it works and we know it saves lives.”

The nasal spray treats drug overdoses when respiration is depressed, which includes drugs like heroin or prescribed pain medications. Naloxone has no adverse effects if administered to someone who has not overdosed, so it can be used as a diagnostic tool, as well.

Last year, FDNY paramedics administered the drug more than 2,800 times citywide. In the first four months of 2014, there have been more than 700 incidents throughout the five boroughs.

At the ceremony, six FDNY paramedics who successfully used Naloxone to save a patient were presented with certificates for their actions, including Paramedics Joseph D’Agosto, Henry Cordero, John Heer, Fernando Payamps, John Roddy (accepted by his partner, Paramedic Willie Acosta) and Stephen Tortoriello.

“Many of these overdoses are accidental,” said Paramedic D’Agosto, who will help train EMTs and firefighters. He said the response he was honored for was a woman in her 60s who overdosed on pain medications. “It’s like using any nose spray, but can block receptors causing respiratory distress.”

Commissioner Cassano said EMTs and firefighters will be trained by July 1.

Vermont | Govt officials review flooding

Coming off an all-night flood watch across the state that closed bridges and roadways, Gov. Peter Shumlin today thanked Vermont’s state and local emergency and transportation crews for another difficult shift protecting Vermonters from a powerful weather event.

In addition, the Governor warned that while flood waters are receding today in most regions, the water level on Lake Champlain will continue to rise in the coming days and weeks.

“Our local and state law enforcement, search and rescue crews, transportation teams and so many others have been working around the clock to notify people in vulnerable areas of the danger, help them locate and reach safety, and then clean up and begin emergency repairs in the wake of the storm,” Gov. Shumlin said, standing with emergency and transportation officials in the state Emergency Operations Center in Waterbury.

The Governor noted the pressure the state’s Agency of Transportation (AOT) has been under this year, forced to deal with a long, harsh winter season that required significant road clearing, and now repair of the damage created by frost heaves and winter buckling, in addition to this spring flooding.

Gov. Shumlin and AOT Deputy Secretary Sue Minter released a letter today to Congressional leaders calling for full funding of the Highway Trust Fund, noting that while this money helps keep states’ transportation networks safe for the traveling public, it also leads to the job creation that is enabling states like Vermont continue to pull out of the recent recession.

“Every $1 million of transportation funding supports 35 jobs in Vermont, through the construction and maintenance of our transportation infrastructure,” the Governor wrote to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “Federal transportation funds therefore help keep employed thousands of hard working Vermonters. Well maintained roads and bridges literally carry Vermont’s world famous products to market and drive tourists from all over the world to our small towns, big mountains and scenic lakes.”

The Governor said Vermont’s Congressional Delegation has worked hard to secure full funding of the Trust Fund. “I appreciate the hard work of Sens. Leahy and Sanders and Rep. Welch in fighting for these critical funds,” he said. “This money is an imperative for Vermont.”

“Without a resolution to this fiscal dilemma Vermont will not be able to fund much-needed road, bridge, rail and transit programs that are critical every year but especially this year following a particularly harsh winter,” the Governor wrote to Boehner and Reid. “At a time when we’re working hard to create jobs and grow economic opportunity, prompt Congressional action is critical.”

“Our VTrans crews once again showed their dedication by working around the clock to protect safe travel on our roads through both flooding and snow,” said Sue Minter, Deputy Secretary of AOT. “This sort of critical public service is exactly why we need Congress to get the message that funding for transportation is essential both to ensure safety on our roadways, and to keep our economy moving.”

This latest flooding has added pressure to the AOT budget, keeping crews working 24-7 to handle trouble spots statewide. Although ice jams have melted, AOT crews were worried about debris posing threats to culverts, bridges and other structures, as well.

Numerous roads around the state were closed due to high water (see list below; roads are reopening now, for latest closures visit http://vtransmaps.vermont.gov/VTrans511/511listing.asp), and several families were evacuated. The Red Cross sheltered four families in the Barton and Leicester area in a motel for the night, and a local shelter in Lyndonville housed six people.

State and local emergency personnel said flooding along the shores of Lake Champlain will be minor to moderate, but it will affect those closest to its shores. Property owners are encouraged to prepare now for possible high water to mitigate damages to homes and other property.

• Move objects like lawn or beach furniture, children’s toys, and other things that can float away to higher ground. Objects like those can pollute the lake and create hazards to boaters.

• Anchor fuel tanks – particularly if your home is close to the lake and likely to be flooded.

• If your home is flooded and you need to evacuate, turn off the electricity in your home and have a professional inspect the electrical system before you return.

State Road Closures Over the Course of the Storm (many have or are reopening):

Rt 15 will be closed due to flooding at the wrong way bridge in Cambridge.

Maidstone State Highway VT 14, MM 1.1

RT 109 from RT 108 to Waterville is Closed for flooding.

Rt 122 at intersection of 114 and US 5 Lyndon is now Closed due to flooding.

RT 118 Berkshire near jct. of RT 105 Closed for flooding.

Evening Folks, route 242 is closed, the squash pipe has failed to center line. Road closed signs are being put out and someone will be posted.

Rt 105 between Berkshire and Richford closed due flooding

RT 100 Lowell, RT 5 St J Center and RT 128 Essex all closed in usual spots along with RT 14 in So. Randolph.

RT 110 in Tunbridge Closed due to flooding, this should be short. Rt 105 Sheldon between RT 236 and Rt 120 Closed for flooding

RT 100 Closed in Troy now for flooding, but open again in Lowell.

Route 102 in Lemington about a mile north of the Columbia Bridge. Closed due to high water.

Local Road Closures

Belvidere: VT-109 at Lost Meadow Road Belvidere – culvert has washed out

Brandon: Wheeler road between Stone Mill Dam Rd and Route 73 – closed

Brookfield: Macredey Rd – closed

Brunswick: VT-102 just north of Maidstone Lake Access Rd – closed

Cambridge: VT-108 at the Wrongway Bridge – closed;

Williamson Road at Bryce – closed; Pumpkin Harbor Rd. – closed

Charlotte: Greenbush Road at the railroad over pass – closed

Chelsea: VT-110 in Chelsea Village – closed

Corinth: Brook Rd at the junction of Cookeville Rd – closed

Coventry: Main St – closed

Duxbury: Crossett Hill Rd. – closed; Mountain View Rd and Scrabble Hill Rd. – down to 1 lane; Heart Rd at River Rd – down to 1 lane

Eden: Blakeville Road at Cooper Hill Road – has water running over it; VT-100 near Boy Scout Camp – has water going over the roadway and is down to one lane

Essex: VT-128 between two bridges – closed

Enosburg: VT-105 Smith Flats Rd – closed

Jay: VT-242 between Jay Village and VT-100 – closed

Jericho: Governor Peck Road, flat area before bad curve 2/3 way up from VT-117 – has water running over it, down to one lane; 150 Browns Trace Road Jericho – has water running over it

Lowell: VT-100 in south of Buckhill and north of Carter Rd – closed

Lyndon: US-5 and VT VT-122 – closed; VT-114/Stevens Loop and Pudding Hill – closed; Park St & Center St – closed; Red Village Rd. – closed

Randolph: VT-14 near the Brickyard Farm is closed

Richford: VT-118 by Woodward Neighborhood Rd – closed

Richmond: Bridge St. – closed

St. Johnsbury: US-2 at Severance Hill Rd St down to one lane; 1320 US-5 Closed just north of Hospital Dr. Traffic detoured to Depot Hill.

Sheldon: VT-105 water over the road; VT-2 Jonesville water over road

Troy: RT 100 – Closed

Underhill: Dumas Road – has water running over it; Poker Hill Road at North Underhill Station Road – closed

Victory: Victory Hill Rd, Masten Rd and River Rd in Victory are closed

West Topsham: VT-25 at Kimball Hill – closed

Williston: North Williston Road is closed due to flooding

The public can receive weather updates through VT Alert. You can sign up for a free account at http://vtalert.gov and click on the link on the left.

Weather forecasts:

Flood gauges: http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/index.php?wfobtv

National Weather Service Albany (Forecast office for Bennington and Windham counties): http://www.weather.gov/aly/

National Weather Service Burlington (Rest of Vermont): http://www.weather.gov/btv/

Road conditions: www.511vt.com

Social media:

VT DEMHS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vermontemergencymanagement

VT DEMHS on Twitter: @vemvt … https://twitter.com/vemvt

Vermont 511 on Twitter: @511vt … https://twitter.com/511VT

VTrans on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/VTrans/143848835653728

Vermont State Police on Twitter: @VTStatePolice … https://twitter.com/VTStatePolice

Vermont State Police on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VermontStatePolice

NWS Burlington: https://www.facebook.com/US.NationalWeatherService.Burlington.gov on Facebook or @NWSBurlington on Twitter

NWS Albany: https://www.facebook.com/US.NationalWeatherService.Albany.gov on Facebook or @NWSAlbany on Twitter

Resource needs: 2-1-1

Rhode Island | Flu declared widespread again – H3N2 and influenza B dominant strains

Director of Health Michael Fine, MD today declared the flu to be widespread again in Rhode Island. This declaration triggers the requirement that healthcare workers who have not been vaccinated against the flu wear surgical masks during direct patient contact.

Rhode Island is seeing a second wave of flu that is even more intense than the first. The dominant strains in this late-season wave have been H3N2 — which has a great impact on the elderly — and influenza B.

The majority of the 13 flu-related deaths this season have been people in their 80s and 90s. There have been 464 flu-related hospitalizations this season. Seventy of these hospitalizations occurred between April 6 and April 12 (the most recent reporting period).

“This continues to be a dangerous flu season for the elderly,” Dr. Fine said. “Vaccination is important for everyone older than 6 months of age, but it is particularly important for the elderly, people who are around the elderly, and healthcare workers. It’s not too late to get a flu shot. When you get vaccinated, you’re protecting yourself and you also could be saving the life of a grandparent, patient, neighbor, or friend who is especially vulnerable this year.”

The masking requirement for healthcare workers will remain in effect until the widespread declaration is lifted. The flu was also widespread this year from January 8 until February 27.

There is still plenty of flu vaccine in Rhode Island. This year’s flu vaccine protects against all of the dominate strains in circulation. Children can be vaccinated at doctors’ offices. Adults can be vaccinated at doctors’ offices and at pharmacies.

In addition to healthcare workers and the elderly, vaccination is especially important for pregnant women, young children, and people with chronic medical conditions such as heart, lung, or kidney disease, diabetes, and asthma.

Georgia | CDC warns of E-Cigarette dangers

Poison centers across the U.S. are reporting a dramatic increase in calls related to exposures to e-cigarettes. The number of calls to the poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than half (51.1 percent) of the calls to the poison centers related to e-cigarettes involved children ages 5 and younger, and about 42 percent of the poison calls involved people ages 20 and older.

Poisoning related to e-cigarettes involves exposure to the liquid containing nicotine used in the devices and can occur in three ways: by ingestion, inhalation or absorption through the skin or eyes. The most common adverse health effects mentioned in e-cigarette calls were vomiting, nausea and eye irritation.

The study was published in the April 3 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The Georgia Poison Center has also seen a spike in the number of calls it has received related to e-cigarettes. The agency received 22 calls in 2013, but in the first few months of 2014, there have already been 24 calls related to e-cigarette liquid poisoning, said Gaylord Lopez, PharmD, director of the Georgia Poison Center.

“Nicotine is a poisonous chemical,” Lopez said. “The refill bottles that are sold online and in the retail setting contain dangerously large quantities of this lethal chemical. As little as half a mouthful of liquid nicotine in a child can cause serious life-threatening effects.”

The reports come amid a flurry of concern over e-cigarettes, electronic devices that heat a mix of chemicals to create an aerosol that the user inhales. The products contain nicotine and other combustible materials that may be dangerous to the health of the users and bystanders. Nicotine is associated with atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which leads to heart attack and stroke. Lead and other heavy metals in some e-cigarettes are associated with brain damage in children and young adults, and with other cognitive problems in adults.

In addition to poisonings, several reports have indicated that e-cigarettes can malfunction and explode, causing burns and other injuries to users.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) wants the public, particularly parents and guardians, to know that e-cigarettes can cause serious health problems.

“E-cigarettes, vape-pens and e-hookahs are dangerous for youth and young adults,” said Jean O’Connor, DrPH, DPH’s director of health promotion and disease prevention. “Kids who are smart about their health will avoid these products. Even one puff can be harmful and addictive.  And if you are unlucky enough to use one that explodes, a burn on your face or hands will last a lifetime.”

In March, the Georgia legislature passed HB 251, banning e-cigarette sales to minors.

If you or someone you know has been poisoned by an e-cigarette or by liquid nicotine, call the Georgia Poison Center at 800.222.1222 or visit its website, www.georgiaposioncenter.org, and start a live chat with one of the poison specialists.

To get help to quit smoking or using tobacco, call the Georgia Tobacco Quit Line at 1-877-270-STOP (7867).

Minnesota | New documentary explores public health impacts of climate change

How will climate change affect the daily lives of Minnesotans, in particular, their health?

That’s the question explored in a new documentary that was a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Twin Cities Public Television (tpt). The new video, Health and Climate, premieres Sunday, April 20 at 7 p.m. on tpt MN in the Twin Cities Metro Area and on the MN Channel throughout the state.

Two MDH programs, MN Climate & Health and Minnesota Environmental Public Health Tracking, played a key role in developing content and finding experts to speak on various topics. The video features interviews with meteorologists Mark Seeley and Paul Douglas, and staff from MDH, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources.

The documentary is a magazine-style production that includes short segments that can stand-alone as clips. It highlights the impact of climate change on our day-to-day lives. It explores how climate change will impact Minnesotans in areas including sports, recreation and farming. The purpose is to engage middle-school students, their families, teachers and coaches, and empower them to adapt to Minnesota’s changing climate.

The department is developing educational materials for middle school students. Those materials will encourage discussion of climate and health and reinforce the concepts presented in the documentary. MDH plans to have the materials ready for the 2014 school year.

Health and Climate is available on the MDH website for use by teachers, students, and others at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/climatechange/climatevideo.html.

For additional broadcasts of Health and Climate, visit http://www.tpt.org/.

Michigan | Snyder declares disaster for Newaygo, Osceola counties to assist response and recovery efforts

Gov. Rick Snyder today declared a “state of disaster” for Newaygo and Osceola counties after severe storms, snowfall and heavy rains caused widespread flooding and wind damage from April 12 to present.

“Our state and local emergency response and volunteer services have been the backbone for responding to this incident,” Snyder said. “I commend them for their efforts in protecting the public health and safety of our citizens during the severe weather and flooding.”

By declaring a “state of disaster,” the state of Michigan will make available all state resources in cooperation with local response and recovery efforts in the disaster area as outlined in the Michigan Emergency Management Plan. Snyder’s declaration authorizes the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) to coordinate state efforts.

Communities within Newaygo and Osceola counties have been severely affected by flooding and wind damage, impacting hundreds of homes, businesses and public facilities and infrastructure. Public health and safety is a concern due to damaged structures and debris, contaminated flood water, increased emergency vehicle response times caused by road and bridge closures, and loss of electric power and utility services.

“We have been actively working with our local emergency management partners in all counties impacted by the severe storms and flooding,” said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “I have directed my staff to work closely with our communities so they can receive the needed resources to respond and recover from this incident.”

Both counties declared a “local state of emergency” on April 14, activating local emergency response and recovery plans. By requesting a governor’s declaration, these counties and their communities have determined local resources are insufficient to address the situation and state assistance is required to protect public health, safety and property to lessen or avert the threat of a crisis.

Kansas | KDHE testing for dry cleaning chemicals found in West Wichita groundwater

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has identified groundwater contaminated by tetrachloroethylene (PCE), a volatile organic chemical (VOC) commonly used in dry cleaning, in an area to the south and southeast of the former Four Seasons Dry Cleaners near W. Central and N. Tyler in Wichita.

This contamination has the potential to impact private drinking water wells in the area. A map showing the latest testing results in the affected area can be viewed here. These initial testing results will be updated as further testing results become available.

KDHE first identified PCE levels below the Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) set by the EPA during a separate site investigation located at 7920 W. Kellogg in late 2009. In March 2014, the former Four Seasons Dry Cleaners site was identified as the source of PCE contamination above the level set out by the EPA and KDHE began to notify residents with private drinking water wells in the area. KDHE recommends that residents with private drinking water wells in the area of concern contact the KDHE Dry Cleaning program at 785-296-1914 to have their well water tested free of charge.

Prolonged exposure to PCE is associated with elevated risks of certain types of cancer and other health problems. As with all health effects, the potential for an increased risk associated with PCE depends on several factors including how much exposure there is, how often exposure occurs and how long it lasts.

KDHE has calculated site-specific contamination levels for safe drinking water, taking into account the type of chemical and other factors. Residents with well water above these levels are either being connected to existing water mains or temporarily provided a point-of-entry carbon filtration system if a water main is not available on their street.

Residents with tap water contamination below the KDHE determined level, but above the EPA determined level are receiving bottled water until a permanent alternative drinking water supply such as connection to a city water supply is made available. KDHE is working with the City of Wichita to quickly connect homes in the area of concern to the City of Wichita public water supply system. If water mains are not available, the KDHE Dry Cleaner’s Trust Fund will fund the installation of new water mains, as needed.

California | Life and death calls all in a day’s work for San Diego County dispatchers

Dispatcher Benny Hernandez takes a Sheriff's radio call. Photo courtesy of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
Dispatcher Benny Hernandez takes a Sheriff’s radio call. Photo courtesy of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

When Benny Hernandez was hired by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to answer emergency calls in 1979, they were doing things very differently.

All information was hand written on a card, time-stamped and then placed in racks to be handed over to U.S. Navy radio chiefs who would then dispatch the calls out to deputies in the field.

Now, sheriff’s dispatchers use a computer-aided dispatch system. They are cross-trained to answer 911 and non-emergency calls and work radios, dispatching calls for service. When working the radio, a dispatcher has assigned deputies — which can range from about 40 to more than 90 units in a special law enforcement detail. But if the computers were to go down, dispatchers are trained to go back to the card system.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department gets more than 620,000 calls for 911 and non-emergency calls for law enforcement, fire and emergency medical aid every year. That averages out to about 1,700 calls a day.

Hernandez says the job can get his adrenaline going.

“The hardest part of this job is trying to keep up with the calls and the radio traffic,” he said.

Hernandez, 57, is the department’s most senior emergency services dispatcher and he was voted Dispatcher Employee of the Year by the Sheriff’s Communications Division Wednesday for his nearly 37 years of service.

He has seen heard and seen a lot in that time, and many of those calls were tragic. Some of the most vivid calls he helped with were the ones from the 2003 and 2007 wildfires and the two separate school shootings in 2001. He recalled that during the shootings, he didn’t handle the main call, but the whole floor erupted with calls from parents of students, all trying to get information about their child.

The advent of cell phones has been an issue for dispatchers. When people call in on landline phones, an address automatically pops up for dispatchers. Now,  so many people call from mobile phones and all dispatchers get initially is a cell tower. He said people sometimes call screaming for help, then hang up and there is no way to pinpoint them. Dispatchers call back, but sometimes the people don’t answer. So, then dispatchers try to get subscriber information to help find the callers, but that takes valuable time when they could be sending out a response.

“We need your location. That’s one of the problems with a cellular call,” he said.

Hernandez works days now but used to work the midnight shift for much of his career. Despite the often stressful calls, Hernandez said he has worked with a lot of really good people and that has made it all worth it. He is retiring in the summer but said he may find some other work.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors honored Sheriff’s dispatchers with a proclamation for this week as part of National Telecommunications Week. In accepting the proclamation for the dispatchers, Sheriff Bill Gore called dispatchers the “hardest working people in public safety” and said that in addition to helping the public “they serve on a daily basis as their lifeline for deputy sheriffs.”

 

Texas | Hantavirus case confirmed in Swisher County

The Texas Department of State Health Services offers precaution information after a Texas Panhandle resident recently developed hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, or HPS.

The person is a resident of Swisher County and has recovered from the infection. Exposure most likely occurred in a rodent-infested barn when dust was stirred up. This is the first confirmed case of HPS in Texas this year. One case was reported in the state last year.

Hantavirus is carried by certain species of rats and mice. The illness is rare. Infected rodents shed the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva. The virus can be transmitted to people when infected rat or mouse urine, saliva, droppings or nesting materials are stirred up, temporarily aerosolizing the virus, which can be breathed in by humans. HPS cases are frequently associated with spring cleaning.

DSHS recommends the following precautions.

  • Seal openings that may allow rats and mice to enter homes and workplaces.
  • Remove brush, woodpiles, trash and other items that may attract rats and mice.
  • Tightly close garbage cans, pet food containers and other food sources.
  • Wear protective gloves to handle dead mice and rats or to clean up nesting areas, urine or droppings.
  • Before cleaning up nests or droppings found inside, open windows and doors to ventilate the area for at least 30 minutes.
  • Do not stir up nests by sweeping or vacuuming. Dampen areas before cleanup.
  • Use a disinfectant or 1-to-10 bleach-water mixture to clean up dead rodents, nests, urine and droppings.

Early symptoms of hantavirus infection include fatigue, fever and muscle aches. These symptoms may be accompanied by headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Later symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath. If hantavirus is suspected, people should contact their health care provider immediately.

A total of 39 HPS cases have been confirmed in Texas since 1993, the first year it was reported, and 14 of those cases resulted in death.