Press Release

May 11, 2012


Third Human Case of Hantavirus in Illinois

State health department offers guidance on how to avoid infection  

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is reporting the third case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a rodent-spread disease, in Illinois. Final confirmatory testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be available next week.  The state’s first case, reported in 1996, was a northwestern Illinois man who died from the disease. The second case, in 2005, was a Kankakee County resident who had worked in a greenhouse. The third case is an Iroquois County resident who first exhibited symptoms in late April of this year and was hospitalized in May with fever and shortness of breath. The patient has been discharged from the hospital and is recovering. The individual became ill after cleaning out a structure where rodents were seen.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a rare but serious respiratory infection that can be life threatening according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Humans can become infected by inhaling dust contaminated by droppings, urine or saliva from infected rodents. Hantavirus can also be transmitted through bites from infected rodents or from direct contact with rodent excretions, followed by touching the mouth or nose prior to hand washing. It takes approximately two weeks for symptoms to appear, but can range from a few days to six weeks. Symptoms can be similar to some types of pneumonia or common respiratory viruses like influenza, and may include fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting.

The deer mouse is the most common rodent carrier of hantavirus. Rodents that carry hantavirus are generally found in rural and sometimes suburban areas. The common house mouse does not spread the virus. The deer mouse is tan or brown in color with white hair on the underbelly, while the typical house mouse is gray.

Since 1993, 587 cases of hantavirus have been reported in more than half the states in the U.S. Cases often occur in the spring after spring-cleaning in homes and businesses.

To minimize the risk of hantavirus citizens should:

  • Avoid contact with wild rodents.
  • Keep rodents away from buildings by keeping lawns mowed and homes free of debris and trash. Wood piles should be at least 12 inches off the ground.
  • Make sure rodents don’t have access to food, water or nesting sites.
  • Keep food scraps and garbage in rodent-proof metal or thick plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Do not allow pet or animal food to sit out.
  • Keep rodents out of buildings by using steel screens, caulk or weather stripping to seal holes or gaps around the house and garage doors. If openings near pipes and electrical wiring are present, seal with steel wool.
  • If rodents are present, use snap traps with peanut butter mixed with oats as effective bait.
  • Air out rodent infested places at least 30 minutes BEFORE cleanup.
  • Use diluted household bleach or products containing phenol on rodent droppings 15 minutes before cleaning areas contaminated by rodents. Personal protective equipment, such as rubber gloves and N100 respirators, is strongly recommended. Dead rodents should be sprayed with disinfectant, like bleach and then placed in a sealed plastic bag containing enough disinfectant to thoroughly wet the carcasses. Make sure to wash hands thoroughly after cleanup. In areas with heavy accumulation of droppings consider hiring a professional.
  • Do NOT vacuum, use leaf blowers or sweep rodent-contaminated areas before cleaning, mopping or spraying with disinfectant. This could cause virus particles in the dust to become airborne.

Additional information on hantavirus and cleaning up after rodents is available at the IDPH website, and the CDC website,

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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