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In humans, the incubation time for this virus is 1–6 weeks. Early symptoms will include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. After 4–10 days following early symptoms, coughing, shortness of breath, tremendous breathing difficulty can appear with the development of pneumonia. Workers who develop symptoms suggestive of disease should immediately seek medical attention. The physician should contact local health authorities promptly if hantavirus-associated illness is suspected. A blood sample should be obtained and forwarded through the state health department to the CDC for hantavirus antibody testing.
This disease normally affects middle-aged adults (mean age of 38 years), but can affect all ages. The fatality rate in the United States is 35%. Biologists should be aware of this disease when handling rodents or when occupying rodent-infested buildings. Caution should be exercised when opening and cleaning previously unused buildings, house cleaning, or entering crawl spaces that are inhabited with mice. Persons involved in any clean-up of rodent-infested structures should wear coveralls (disposable, if possible), rubber boots or disposable shoe covers, rubber or plastic gloves, protective goggles, and an appropriate respiratory protection device, such as a half-mask air-purifying (or negative-pressure) respirator with a 197 high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or a powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) with HEPA filters. Personal protective gear should be decontaminated upon removal at the end of the day.