The Crestone Eagle, August 2004:

Hanta Virus discovered in the Baca! Man survives life-threatening illness
by Mary Lowers

A case of Hanta Virus contracted by a Baca resident has been confirmed by the Colorado Department of Health. The Baca resident survived the illness after being airlifted from Salida to Denver, and is back at home recovering.

Hanta Virus, which is often deadly, is hard to contract. It comes in two strains; one attacks the respiratory system and other internal organs, specifically the liver and gall bladder. The second strain, the type contracted by the Baca man, is less common. Hanta is contracted from mouse urine and droppings, and the rapid explosion in the mouse population is making the rate of Hanta Virus high. Colorado Department of Health estimates half of the mouse population carries the virus.

One woman has died in the state from the illness so far this year. There have been two cases of Hanta in the state this year, compared to only two cases prior to this, over the last ten years. The Baca man was tested for West Nile Virus, as well as Hanta Virus; both tests he received for Hanta came back positive. Hanta Virus has an incubation period of 1-6 weeks.

The virus victim’s Baca home was inundated with mice. He was using a shop vac, which is most likely when he contracted the disease.

If you must work in an area where contact is possible, follow these recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control:

•When opening an unused cabin, shed, or other building, open all the doors and windows, exit the building, and allow the space to air out for 30 minutes.

•Return to the building and spray the surfaces, carpet, and other areas with a disinfectant. Leave the building for an additional 30 minutes.

•Spray mouse nests and droppings with a 10% solution of chlorine bleach or equivalent disinfectant, allow to sit 30 minutes, and using rubber gloves place the materials in plastic bags, seal, and dispose of the bags in the trash or incinerator. Dispose of gloves and cleaning materials in the same manner. [Ed. note: Do not vacuum, as this can blow pathogens into the air.]

•Wash all potentially contaminated hard surfaces with a bleach or disinfectant solution. Vacuuming should be avoided until the area has been thoroughly decontaminated and then should only be done (the first few times) with adequate ventilation. Surgical masks may provide some protection.