Hantavirus still a concern according to recent conference

by Darcie Chamberlain, RN

PHN with UNHS Public Health

It’s not very often you hear about someone having Hantavirus, but when you do it’s pretty scary. Hantavirus has been around for a very long time and it exists in other parts of the world, (the word Hanta refers to the Hanta River in Korea), but for the Four Corners Region, Hantavirus can be deadly.

Hantavirus became well known to the Four Corners Region in 1993 when a young couple who had been healthy developed sudden respiratory failure and died within days of each other. Subsequently, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) sent teams of researchers to northern New Mexico and Arizona to study the cause and course of the disease.

In April of this year, the researchers shared their conclusions at a special Public Health conference at Dine College in Tsalie, Arizona. The Conference included speakers from the CDC, research teams, and a special visit from Navajo Nation President, Jonathan Nez. Utah Navajo Health Systems (UNHS) sent their public health team, Shawn Begay (MPA), Darcie Chamberlain (RN, PHN), Katarina Benally (RN, PHN), and Shaundeen Romans (CNA, PHE). Roxanna Yazzie from Navajo Mountain clinical lab also attended.

The focus of the conference was to educate clinicians in the area about the disease, its cause, prevention, and treatment. In fact, this research has indicated that a new screening process for Hantavirus can save lives with early detection and intervention. The screening process is called “Five Point Screening.” The UNHS public health team presented the Five Point Screening to UNHS and BMH providers at the Medical Staff meeting on April 8. The screening process is set to begin this year, as we are likely to see an increase in rodent populations due to the above average amount of snowfall and rainfall experienced throughout the region so far.

The public health team will be presenting the Five Point Screening to all clinical staff at their clinical meeting in June. Begay’s team would also love to offer a short presentation for other providers in the area. If you would like to know more about the Hantavirus and the Five Point Screening, please call 435-678-0251.

For the general public, it is important to remember these prevention tips:

· If you are going to be cleaning out an area (car, shed, home) where you suspect mice have been, always air it out for at least 30 minutes before cleaning.

· Begin your cleaning by spraying down the area with a 10% bleach solution (add 1 cup of bleach to every 9 cups of water in your cleaning bucket). Let the solution soak for 5 minutes before wiping up.

· Wear gloves

· Have your vehicle’s cabin filters and air filters changed regularly.

Pictured: UNHS Public Health staff attend Hantavirus conference
Members of the Utah Navajo Health Systems Public Health staff attended the most recent Hantavirus conference in Tsalie, Arizona to learn more about the disease and how to combat a possible upsurge this year after a very wet winter.
Pictured L-R: Katarina Benally, Roxanna Yazzie, Shawn Begay, Darcie Chamberlain, and Shaundeen Romans. Courtesy photo.

Originally posted in Medically Speaking: News from Blue Mountain Hospital and UNHS, Volume Six, Number Eleven. Published May 16, 2019