September 3rd, 2012
03:56 PM ET

Hantavirus: What you need to know

The Empowered Patient is a regular feature from CNN Senior Medical News Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that helps put you in the driver's seat when it comes to health care.

While there's no ironclad way to keep hantavirus away, there are steps you can take to minimize the chances that it will hurt you or your family.

The virus is relatively rare: Only 602 cases have been reported in the United States since 1993, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recently, six cases of hantavirus were reported among people who visited Yosemite National Park in California. Two of those infected people died.

However, it's very deadly: About half of all people who get hantavirus die of it, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Though some people do get it from camping, such as the recent Yosemite cases, many more people contract hantavirus in their own homes, according to the CDC.

The virus is spread by rodent droppings and urine. Here are some tips from the CDC and NIH for keeping hantavirus at bay:

1. Seal holes inside and outside your home to keep rodents out.

2. Trap rodents around your home.

3. While camping, sleep on ground cover and a pad.

4. When opening an unused cabin, open all doors and windows. Leave for 30 minutes, and when you return, spray disinfectant and then leave for another 30 minutes.

5. Know the signs: Early symptoms include chills, fever and muscle aches. Within one or two days, it becomes hard to breathe.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Don

    This is good advice. I barely survived this disease back in the 1970's. It was only through the dedication of one of my Doctors, who finally diagnosed my ailment, that I am alive to tell this tale. This disease is so rare that the symptoms are mistaken for flu at first. After two weeks I got progressively worse. Finally with the right meds and hospital care
    I made a full a recovery. The whole episode lasted about 5 weeks from start to finish.
    All this because an unknown mouse had gotten into our bread box in the kitchen.

    September 3, 2012 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. bryce

    What you need to know is that as long as you aren't camping in the tents in Yosemite your chances of getting Hantavirus are about the same as winning the lottery.

    September 4, 2012 at 00:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Common Sense

    This was what killed off most of the natives of central and south america not small pox.Mice were leaving infected droppings around their stores of corn

    September 4, 2012 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. jane

    Interesting comment bout the natives dying from this virus. Could it explain what happened to the Anazi? Really? What a theory! Hope it is true. Would explain a lot. Where would we find information?

    September 4, 2012 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jason

    That theory is not likely. Smallpox is pretty unmistakable. Hantavirus doesn't produce anything like the characteristic skin lesions of smallpox, so there's no possible way to confuse the two diseases.

    September 4, 2012 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Johnny

    What you need to know: Nearly no one will get this disease, so you can just forget about it and worry about something else.

    September 4, 2012 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Kathy

    uhhh.... excuse me, Bryce, but.... I sure didn't feel like I won the lottery 10 years ago when I got hantavirus. And I live in Nebraska. The lottery would have definately been a whole lot nicer. My advice is ... if something has been closed up-machinery, buildings... proceed cautiously. Now, if you'll excuse me – I'm off to buy a lottery ticket....

    September 4, 2012 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ray

    Just listened to Elizabeth Cohen on CNN-Feb25th/2013 on Mediterranean Diet.Our family ten in all split 50/50 five girls and five boys.My younger sister was killed in a motor cycle accident at age 20.All other family members are living and no one has had a heart attack.We lived on a lot of fish and still do but little or no meat growing up.Salmon,cod,herring,trout,mackeral and halibut was the main stable.No member of our family has had a heart attack.The ages range from 66 the youngest and after 68,69,70 73,.76,79,80 81& 83.We have had minor health problems but no heart attack.No heart problems and in my opinion is contributed to a high fish diet.

    February 25, 2013 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.