Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a rare but serious disease that occurs throughout the U.S. and is caused by a virus that individuals get through contact infected rodents urine, droppings, or saliva.

In the U.S., deer mice are the reservoir of the HPS. The virus is mainly transmitted to people when they breathe in air contaminated with the virus. Rodent infestation in and around the home remains the primary risk for hantavirus exposure.

Early symptoms

Early symptoms 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, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. About half of all HPS patients experience these symptoms.

Late symptoms

Four to 10 days after the initial phase of illness, the late symptoms of HPS appear. These include coughing and shortness of breath, with the sensation of, as one survivor put it, a "...tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face" as the lungs fill with fluid.

Uncommon symptoms

Earache, sore throat, runny nose, and rash are very uncommon symptoms of HPS.


  • Rodent-proof buildings by plugging holes or other mouse entryways. Conduct year-round rodent control, or hire a professional exterminator.
  • Keep indoor areas clean, especially kitchens. Dispose of garbage in sealed containers.
  • Store food in rodent-proof containers, including food for pets, livestock and birds.
  • Remove rodent hiding places near your home, such as wood, junk and brush piles. Store firewood at least 100 feet from your house. Keep vegetation around the house well-trimmed.

April 10, 2015: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment News

Additional Resource