Amarillo, TX - The state of Texas has seen its first case of a deadly disease right here in the panhandle.
Due to health information privacy laws, officials cannot tell us exactly where in the panhandle the hantavirus case is, however we do know it's been heavily seen in the central panhandle area in the past.
It's a disease carried by rodents.
And Texas has seen its first case of hantavirus right in our own backyard. The disease is excreted through rodent feces, urine and saliva.
Many are said to contract the disease from simply cleaning.
The virus rides on dust particles and with humans inhaling it, they are exposed.
"The rodents are pretty much everywhere in the panhandle and so we really don't want to pinpoint a specific area and say oh that's a bad area for hantavirus because then people in other parts of the panhandle may say oh we don't have it here so we don't have to worry, but the potential is for it to be all over the panhandle," says Dr. James Alexander.
Alexander says with the rain producing more grains and crops, the population of rodents will be enhanced. While the disease has not been known to be transmitted from human to human in the U.S., it has been proven deadly.
"Roughly 1 out of 3 people that get it, have passed away," says Alexander. "The last 6 cases..we had 5 cases last year in the state and 4 up in our region and elsewhere. Out of the 5 last year, all have survived. So our case fatality rate is actually dropping which is good news."
Symptoms usually start out as flu-like signs with joint aches, fever, headaches that can progress to pneumonia. While it is a serious disease once contracted, Alexander says it is fairly preventable.
"Try to prevent the mice from getting in and out...in a barn it's very hard to do. Cats can be very helpful in helping keep rodent populations down and reducing risks that way," says Alexander.