The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced on May 22 that a Texas County resident died from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).
The death was the first confirmed case of HPS in Oklahoma in 2014. Two individuals died from HPS in Oklahoma in 2013, and five cases have been reported in the state since the disease first made its appearance in the U.S. in 1993. All cases of HPS in Oklahoma have come from the northwestern part of the state.
OSDH issued recommendations to residents to avoid the disease, including cleaning areas with possible wild rodent infestation. Residents are urged to use rubber gloves during the cleanup and remove nests or dead rodents with long-handled shovels or gloves.
HPS is spread by wild rodents, particularly species found in parts of Oklahoma and the southwestern U.S. Humans can come into contact with the virus through breathing air that has been contaminated after rodent nesting materials have been stirred up. HPS can also be contracted by handling infected materials, or through a rodent bite.
Symptoms of the disease usually appear within two weeks after exposure but can appear as early as three days or as late as six weeks after. HPS symptoms include fever, chills, cough, headache and body aches. Fluid eventually fills the lungs, making breathing difficult.
OSDH said that any Oklahoma residents who were exposed to rodents and are experiencing symptoms should immediately contact a healthcare professional.