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Flood Water Displaces Rodents, Raises Infectious Disease Concerns

Although the storm may have passed in some areas, Southern United States residents have more to worry about than cleaning up and piecing their lives back together in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. In addition to safety hazards, the flood waters brought by the powerful storm have increased the risk of residents contracting water-borne and vector-borne diseases. Standing water leftover as a result of the storm will become a welcome breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes, and rodents that have been displaced from their homes will have closer contact with humans as they look for dry land.

To this end, we have included a list of some of the diseases residents have an increased risk of contracting below:

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

This severe respiratory disease is caused by the hantavirus, which is spread to humans through contact (via inhalation or ingestion) with rodent droppings, urine, or saliva. Most of the cases that occur in the United States are caused by the Sin Nombre virus, transmitted mostly from the North American deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the clinical case definition of HPS is, “A febrile illness (ie, temperature > 101.0° F (> 38.3° C) characterized by bilateral diffuse interstitial edema that may radiographically resemble Acute Respiratory Disease Syndrome, with respiratory compromise requiring supplemental oxygen, developing within 72 hours of hospitalization, and occurring in a previously healthy person.” The lab criteria for diagnosis includes, “detection of: hantavirus-specific immunoglobulin M or rising titers of hantavirus-specific immunoglobulin G, or hantavirus-specific ribonucleic acid sequence by polymerase chain reaction in clinical specimens, or hantavirus antigen by immunohistochemistry.”

The most recent data on the CDC website indicates that the majority of hantavirus cases reported between 1993 and January 1, 2017, have been in states west of the Mississippi River, which includes the hard-hit state of Texas.


For information on this infection, please see, Hurricane Harvey Puts Health Officials on Alert for Water-Borne Infections.

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