Rare infection from rodent virus sickens North Dakota child

The North Dakota Department of Health said the patient was hospitalized due to a hantavirus infection.

Mice huddle in a corner
Rodents can harbor hantavirus, which on rare occasions can cause a potentially deadly infection in humans.
Photo via National Pest Management Association
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FARGO — A child in eastern North Dakota was infected with a virus linked to rodent droppings, according to state health officials.

The child came down with a case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), according to a Monday, Aug. 29, news release from the North Dakota Department of Health.

The rare infection was confirmed by testing performed at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The child was hospitalized but has since recovered, the NDDoH said.

The department did not disclose information on the child's age, place of residence, or where they might have been infected.

NDDoH epidemiologist Levi Schlosser said most hantavirus exposures happen when a person is cleaning or staying in cabins, sheds or other dwellings that contain rodents, rodent droppings or rodent nests.


"Currently, only supportive treatment exists for hantavirus disease, so it is important to be wary of rodent infestations to properly prevent infection,” Schlosser said in the release.

HPS is a viral infection that can cause severe lung disease, including pneumonia.

Symptoms usually begin two to three weeks after infection and include fever, body aches, fatigue, headache, dizziness, chills, nausea and vomiting.

Within a short period of time, symptoms worsen to include coughing and shortness of breath.

The department has recorded 19 cases of HPS in nearly the past 30 years in North Dakota, eight of which resulted in death.

Nationally, 833 cases have been reported, with 35% resulting in death, through December 2020.

NDDoH offers these tips to avoid hantavirus infection when cleaning a building with a rodent infestation:

  • Ventilate by opening doors and windows for 30 minutes before cleanup begins.
  • Wear gloves and use disinfectant.
  • Saturate dead rodents, their urine, droppings and nests with disinfectant for at least five minutes before removal.
  • Use a commercial disinfectant registered with the EPA or a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water.
  • Do not stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming droppings or other materials.
  • Do not let children play in crawl spaces or vacant buildings where rodents may be present.
Huebner is a 35+ year veteran of broadcast and print journalism in Fargo-Moorhead.
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