(CMC) – Health authorities Wednesday said they were awaiting confirmation of a preliminary test to determine whether hurricane battered Dominica has registered its first case of the unusual virus, Hanta Virus, spread by rodents.
A statement by the Minister of Health and Environment said that confirmatory tests are being done at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta in the United States and that an epidemiological investigation has not found further cases on the island.
“The disease does not spread from person to person. The mode of transmission of the virus is similar to leptospirosis. Rodent infestation in and around the home remains the primary risk for the virus exposure,” the statement said.
It said the rodents shed the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva and ‘any activity that puts you in contact with rodents dropping, urine, saliva, or nesting material can place you at risk for infection”.
The health authorities warn that the virus can spread through inhalation of aerosolised particles of rat dropping” and are advising people to practice good hygiene and report rat infestation to the Environmental Health Office.
“The Ministry of Health has been very active in educating the general public of prevention and precautionary measures of leptospirosis as well as implementing rodent control measures since the passing of Hurricane Maria,” the statement said, adding that it wanted to assure the population “that all necessary steps are undertaken to detect a case early, to manage a case adequately, to prevent the spread of disease effectively and minimising rodent infestation”.
The early symptoms of the virus include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups – thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal. There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain.
Dominica was severely impacted by Hurricane Maria when it passed through the Lesser Antilles on September 18, killing at least 28 people and leaving damage estimated at billions of dollars.