Dominica Health authorities said yesterday they were awaiting confirmation of a preliminary test to determine whether hurricane-battered Dominica has registered its first case of the unusual Hanta Virus spread by rodents.
A statement by the Minister of Health and Environment said that tests are being done at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta in the United States and that an epidemiological investigation has not found similar 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 explained that rodents shed the virus in their excrements and warned that any activity that puts one in contact with rodent droppings, urine, saliva, or nesting material is at risk for infection.
The health authorities warned further that the virus can spread through inhalation of aerosolized particles of rat droppings 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.
It sought 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 minimizing rodent infestation”.
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 which passed through the Lesser Antilles on September 18, killing at least 28 people and leaving damage estimated at billions of dollars.