Hantavirus Threat Rising In Mesa County High Country

An expert says the large amount of precipitation the Western Slope received this winter is setting the stage for an increase of the spread of hantavirus in our area this summer. Mesa State Biology Professor Tony Schountz has been studying the disease–carrying deer mouse and hantavirus for years.

He says relatively warm and moist winters coupled with a mild summer last year set the stage for an explosion in populations of deer mice, especially in the higher elevations of mesa county. Schountz says his trapping program in Molina is showing a marked increase in hantavirus–carrying mice.

Hantavirus lives in droppings of deer mice, and is transmitted to humans through the air when a person stirs up dust. Fatalities in humans sometimes arise from the immune system's efforts to fight the respiratory problems coming from exposure to hantavirus.

Shountz advises people working around barns and other potential virus areas purchase a biological mask. He says standard surgical masks don't provide enough protection.

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