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Hantavirus takes fourth life in Colorado

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Hantavirus claimed a fourth life July 16 out of six reported cases in Colorado for 2007. 

This year's cases match the record set in 1993 when the state began tracking the fatal virus. 

Buckley public health officials warn Buckley members to increase their awareness about the disease and how to prevent it in the midst of the swelling numbers of fatal cases. 

Hantavirus is an untreatable disease that is transferred through deer mice droppings, said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Siddall, from force health management at the 460th Medical Group Public Health Flight. 

People contract the disease by inhaling the dust of the droppings. This exposure can occur when cleaning out mice-infested enclosures without proper protection. 

It starts with flu-like symptoms. Within days up to six weeks after exposure, the victims' lungs fill with fluid and breathing becomes difficult. 

Getting treated early lowers the risk of the disease becoming fatal, but it can't completely erase it, he said. 

"I definitely wouldn't want those odds," Sergeant Siddall said. 

So far, there haven't been any cases close to Aurora, but the base is home to some deer mice. 

Currently, the public health flight staff monitors the animals' activities and helps the base's people-populated area remain unattractive for nesting, he said. 

What people can do to reduce their chances of contracting the disease is:
  • Leave large cleanups to professionals.
  • Spray a mixture of bleach and water on areas where they suspect mice activity before cleaning to prevent dust.
  • Wear face masks to filter the air.
  • Wear gloves.
  • Double bag waste.
  • Sanitize cleanup tools.
  • Move boxes and clutter that attract and provide nesting sites for mice.
  • Avoid sleeping directly on the ground where mice droppings could be present when camping. The safest method is to sleep in a tent.
For more information on Hantavirus or other local health threats, contact the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Information Center at 1-800-886-7689 or at 303-362-2000 or visit their Web site at www.cdphe.state.co.us.
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