A young girl has contracted the rare and potentially deadly hantavirus disease in North Dakota.
The viral infection is spread through contact with the saliva, feces and urine of infected rodents.
It can progress into a severe lung disease: Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), which can be fatal.
The school-aged child had contact with rodent-infested buildings, according to a statement issued by the state’s Department of Health on Wednesday.
State epidemiologist Jill Baber says people should be mindful of the ‘presence or evidence’ of rodents when cleaning, especially in rural areas.
This is the 15th hantavirus infection reported to the state Health Department since 1993, when the virus was first recognized in the US.
Seven of those cases were fatal.
The virus was first recognized in 1993, sparking a wave of health fears. It hit headlines once more in 2012, after a small outbreak in Yosemite National Park.
To date, a total of 690 cases of HPS have been reported in the United States.
Humans typically become infected by inhaling dust that has mixed with feces, saliva or urine of deer mice.
The CDC describes deer mice as a ‘deceptively cute animal, with big eyes and ears’.
Deer mice can be found across the United States, from woodland and deserts to New York City subways.
Symptoms are thought to develop between one and eight weeks after exposure to infected rodents.
Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches in the thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders.
Some other patients have described feeling headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
After about a week of these symptoms, the virus progresses into its second phase when the lungs begin to fill with fluid.
At this point, survivors of the virus have described a feeling akin to drowning – as if there were a tight band around their chest and a pillow over their face.
Visible symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath.
Since it cannot be passed from person to person, and can in some cases die when the sufferer is exposed to sunlight, the condition is extremely rare.
However, if contracted it can lead to HPS, which leads to death in 40 per cent of cases.
There is no known cure for the virus.
The CDC advises people to thoroughly clean areas that could have rodents in them.